ALBANY — For Fredando Jackson, also known as “Farmer Fredo,” getting fresh produce to Albany’s food deserts is a task that comes one sweet potato at a time.
Jackson, the executive director of Flint River Fresh, has partnered with the Albany Housing Authority to bring mobile farmers’ markets to these food deserts as a way to provide accessible produce and promote healthy eating.
He targeted on Thursday the W.C. Holman Homes neighborhood, which was impacted by the closing of the Harveys Supermarket on West Gordon Avenue after Hurricane Michael — a closure that took away access to fresh produce from a community.
A food desert, as explained by Jackson, is classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an area without a grocery store within five miles. To some, getting into a car and driving to the other side of town to a Publix or Walmart for groceries is not an obstacle, but Jackson said many of the residents in the Holman Homes community are elderly or disabled — which creates challenges in terms of the mobility necessary to get to a grocery store.
As a way to help these individual communities, Jackson is taking the produce to them.
“It’s the weekend before Christmas so we’re making sure that people have their greens, cabbages, turnips, apples, oranges and sweet potatoes for their Christmas meals,” he said. “It’s also a way that we support the work of the Albany Housing Authority and the programs that they do for these residents.”
Flint River Fresh is partnering with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to gather data to show the health benefits of eating fresh produce. Even without the numbers, Jackson said numerous individuals have approached him to show their appreciation for having access to fresh produce and how including more produce into their diets has increased their health overall.
“Growing up in the African-American community, we’re surrounded by hypertension, diabetes, type II diabetes, health issues and cardiovascular disease,” he said. “I can go down my family tree and see that as a part of our tree so I thought of a way to take care of my grandmother and my aunt.
“I do a lot of urban farming and work with school kids and school gardens, and so this was just an expansion of knowing that once a kid leaves the cafeteria, where is their next healthy meal coming from? This expands that work and allows us to continue being an advocate for fresh produce but also being an advocate for healthy living and a healthy lifestyle especially in communities that are suffering from poverty and unemployment issues.”
Jackson said that Flint River Fresh is looking to do events like the mobile farmer’s market at the Holman Homes community monthly.
For more information about Flint River Fresh, visit their website www.flintriverfresh.org or find them on Facebook and Instagram.