The Feeding America Network defines much of the city of Jackson as a “food desert.” It’s hard to believe that such a jarring issue can be found so close to home. It seems as though most people are able to make that quick run to the grocery store after work to pick up those last few ingredients to put a meal on the table. For Jacob Inosencio, founder of Grow Jackson, his involvement in extracurriculars and classes during college and growing up volunteering at the local food pantry opened his eyes to the environmental inequalities found in the food system. It may not seem like it, but every county in the United States has food insecurity, and no demographic has consistency in their diet.
The basic need for food seems like it should be widely attainable. Waking up, making breakfast – it should be as simple as that. Jacob points out that food insecurity harms many people in our own city but disproportionately affects children, the elderly, and people of color. It could be affecting someone as close as your next-door neighbor, a coworker, or even a friend.
Knowing this pushed Jacob to put an end to food insecurity, starting in his own hometown. Jacob founded Grow Jackson, a non-profit 5O1c3 dedicated to ending food insecurity in Jackson through inclusive access to organic produce. Grow Jackson rescues food from being thrown away and has built a number of local urban community gardens. These gardens not only grow produce to sustain the people of Jackson who may need it but grow our community as well.
They continue their involvement by managing the gardens, growing organic produce, and keeping that produce available for people to harvest their own flowers or vegetables, or to be given away. Volunteers have the opportunity to get their hands dirty and be rewarded by seeing the product of their hard work, as well as the faces of those they are feeding when they harvest. Just recently, Grow Jackson was able to dedicate Martin Luther King Jr. Day to rescuing boxes of food from landfills, and giving them out to communities in the Jackson area.
Grow Jackson offers a variety of programs in the area to further its mission. One of which is the Garden Education Initiative, in cooperation with St. Mary’s School, the City of Jackson, and Young People of Purpose, where students K through 8 have the opportunity to learn about environmental science, plant and soil science, the food system, and home gardening skills.
Jacob and Grow Jackson are especially excited to be partnered with Orthopedic Rehab Specialists to put on this year’s Groundhog Gallop, sponsored by Experience Jackson. This 5k race is a great opportunity to raise money during the season of giving. Grow Jackson believes food and nutrition are a human right and being active as a community is a great way to support wellness, as well as Grow Jackson’s mission to end food insecurity. The Groundhog Gallop matches up with Orthopedic Rehab’s race series, this being the first of the year.
Even though it’s winter, Grow Jackson is gearing up for another busy spring and summer full of gardening and giving. More information will be posted, come summer. To donate, visit GrowJackson.org/Donate. If you or someone you know may be interested in volunteering at a community garden or packaging food, visit GrowJackson.org/Volunteer.