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Sweet Potatoes And Power: Food Security In Baltimore (Encore)

Mike Mozart via Flickr


Food insecurity is rampant in Baltimore, with nearly a quarter of the city's residents struggling to acquire healthy, affordable food. On this month's episode of Future City, we discuss why food insecurity persists in one of the wealthiest states in the country, and how local urban farmers, religious leaders, and advocates are fighting for food justice in the city. 

For some, ending food insecurity means increasing access to food. But for others, that doesn't go far enough. "If we're thinking about this in a holistic way, food access is one piece," Marie McSweeney Anderson, Assistant Director of the York Road Initiative at Loyola University Maryland, says. Some of the other pieces, according to McSweeney Anderson, include affordable housing, fair wages and employment.

Much of the debate over food access is "propped up by an assumption," Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III, Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and founder of the Black Church Food Security Network says, "that if we just had more grocery stores that would fix the problem." That doesn't get to the root of the issue, Rev. Brown says.

Following the lead of Karen Washington, cofounder of Black Urban Growers, he's shifted from talking about "food deserts" to talking about "food apartheid." Food apartheid, he says, "is a heavy word...It gives people pause. I've even seen people clutch imaginary pearls." But, he says, the phrase more accurately describes the systemic nature of food insecurity. 

We speak with Marie McSweeney Anderson and Rev. Dr. Heber Brown about initiatives they are part of on the York Road coordior and beyond, including the FreshCrate project, which provides fresh produce to local corner stores, and the Black Church Food Security Network, which connects black farmers and church congregants to establish gardens, agricultural projects and farmer’s markets at places of worship. ​

Next, we talk to Michael J. Wilson, Director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, about what changes to eligibility requirements for SNAP, the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, could mean for Marylanders. We also speak to him about how young people are affected by food insecurity, including through school lunch shaming and debt

Finally, journalist Cassie Chew joins us to discuss how some states are launching restaurant meals programs, which allow people to use SNAP benefits to purchase hot meals, to combat food insecurity for disabled people, elders, and people experiencing homelessness.  

Originally aired on March 18, 2020.

Future City is hosted by Wes Moore and produced by Mark Gunnery. It airs the third Wednesday of each month at 1:00 pm and 9:00 pm.


Wes Moore is a decorated Army combat veteran, youth advocate and CEO of BridgeEdU, a national initiative focusing on addressing the college completion and career placement crisis by reinventing the Freshman Year of college. He is also the author of two instant New York Times bestselling books, The Other Wes Moore and The Work.
Mark is a producer at WYPR