It is always exciting to see what happens when a community comes together to develop solutions to its most pressing issues. Led by Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., Pastor and CEO of St. Andrew AME Church Enterprise, more than 22 South Memphis organizations, business and religious institutions worked together over 18 months to plan how to revitalize their neighborhood - and today, we see the first fruits of that labor (literally) with the opening of the South Memphis Farmers Market.
The Farmers Market is a piece of a larger plan for the revitalization of South Memphis. The South Memphis tale is a familiar one to many urban areas across the country – declining population, high unemployment, and more than 40% of its population lives on incomes below the poverty line. Instead of giving in and continuing to let their neighborhood decline, the residents of South Memphis took action.
More than 400 neighbors came together over 18 months of community meetings to assess the current state of their neighborhood – and what the future of South Memphis could be. And that’s how they developed their South Memphis Revitalization Action Plan.
Heather Peeler, Chief Strategy Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service was on hand to deliver remarks at today’s opening ceremony. Peeler noted the shared priority of the residents who developed the market and those of the United We Serve: Let’s Read. Let’s Move initiative, providing access to healthy and affordable food.
The market meets several critical needs all at once – it will begin to address the ‘food desert’ in South Memphis by bringing fresh and healthy produce to an area with no full-service grocery store. It will improve health and reduce obesity – critical problems in many communities. And it will spur economic development by keeping money in the area.
John Kelly is the Strategic Advisor for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Corporation for National and Community Service