Hundreds of thousands of Arizona residents live in food deserts – neighborhoods and towns characterized by their lack of access to fresh and affordable healthy food. As a result, some are forced to travel long distances to get the groceries they need. But for those who don’t own a car or can’t take public transportation to grocery stores, food insecurity is a real concern. In 2014, nearly one in every five Arizona household struggled to find enough affordable, nutritious food.
Ten Arizona State University students discussed food deserts in their service learning community development class, but realizing it wasn’t a problem they could solve in a semester, they decided to switch focus. The students learned that local produce like eggplant and fennel is foreign to some people. “What we decided to do was make a cookbook using local produce because a lot of the times when they’re given this free produce they’re not sure what to do with it and it goes to waste,” student Ernest Garcia told Cronkite News.
Students and chefs – like indigenous cook Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz and Perk Eatery owner Pauline Martinez – teamed up to create Let’s Eat Local, a community cookbook with 30 easy-to-follow recipes. Though the book, which will make it way to Phoenix residents, is for people struggling with food insecurity, the class kept Latinos in mind when creating it. The book is written in both English and Spanish.
Students have created a GoFundMe page, where they hope to raise $6,000.