I am a self-proclaimed Durham Evangelist and a big reason for my LOVE of Durham outside of the urban diversity and grit is the FOOD! When my husband (Durham native) and I moved back to the Bull City about six years ago after living for some time in Chapel Hill, then DC and then Chapel Hill again, we arrived right at the beginningsof the Downtown Durham revival. The recently developed American Tobacco District had taken root and brought new life to a dormant inner city. Great local restaurants like Rue Cler and Piedmont popped up soon thereafter and thrived. Piedmont drew much of their menu from local ingredients being sold right outside its doors at the busy Durham Farmer’s Market. This growing foodie scene is heightening culinary awareness, supporting local farms and providing jobs in Downtown Durham.
Now there’s Revolution and Dos Perros, Toast, Scratch, Geer Street Garden, Daisy Cakes….among others with more in the works – a gourmet Seattle pizza place and two Tapas restaurants are underway and set to open soon. Not to mention there are amazing Food Trucks galore! Korean BBQ and Chirba Chirba Dumplings, yuummm. Durham’s got its Foodie Groove On! (and…Chapel Hill and Raleigh have got a little going on too- no bias here). Durham/Chapel Hill was named the Foodiest Small Town in America by Bon Appetit! So exciting!
My husband is the chef of our family and makes all kinds of delicious creations. I tell him all the time that he could have his own cooking show and after praising his latest dish and lapping up the last of his savory sauce from my plate, he’ll jokingly say “just a little something I whipped up.” Matt has taught me how to appreciate food in ways that I hadn’t before and has made me a foodie by association. Together we are guilty parties in this food-obsessed, locavore-trending culture, and we are enjoying the local labors of love that are emerging in our city.
Most recently we have been supporting the new LoMo Market, a truck that brings the farmer’s market goods to your neighborhood. Last week we picked up perfectly sweet sun gold tomatoes, blueberries and kale. Nature’s best delivered almost to our door. How fortunate are we?!…but this convenience and luxury comes at a price and it’s not cheap. Matt and I are on a budget and have to limit what we purchase from this new market. It makes us think if it feels a little out of reach for us, how is fresh healthy local food made available and affordable for low-income and poor families?
In our community, some families struggle to put enough food on their tables and others are battling obesity partially due to lack of education about and access to nutritious food. What are some current strategies to address these issues?
Here are two United Way agencies that are tackling the food needs of our community and making healthy food more accessible:
The Interfaith Food Shuttle, started by Jill Staton-Bullard and Maxine Solomon in 1989 evolved from their success in salvaging trash-bound food from restaurants which they delivered to the homeless in local shelters via Jill’s own station wagon. Jill tells the story of asking a restaurant for breakfast biscuits that were about to be thrown out. The restaurant allowed them to take the uneaten biscuits and when they served them to the people at the shelter, they found that the recipients were cutting them into quarters to feed all who needed them. That effort has grown from the station wagon to now recovering over 7.1 pounds of food from 350 donors. Their mission: Inter-Faith Food Shuttle pioneers innovative, transformative solutions designed to end hunger in our community.
In addition to putting food into the hands of hungry people, the InterFaith Food Shuttle teaches classes on how to cook with nutritious fresh foods, they have developed local gardens in low income neighborhoods, they have a culinary job training program, they have a working farm, and they run mobile markets- delivering produce and boxed items to food insecure areas of our community.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina fights hunger by providing food in 34 counties of our state. This summer they are organizing Kids Summer Stock to provide meals for 300,000 children who typically receive free and reduced lunches at school and may not have meals in the summer.
I was also encouraged to see this recent piece in the News and Observer about $4 million in federal funds being made available to connect farmers to more low-income customers by setting up the Electronic Benefits Transfer (Food Stamps) Systems in farmers markets.
So, eat up! But while you are at it, consider those who may not have the privilege to partake of the growing Durham restaurant scene. You can help make good food more affordable and accessible for others by volunteering or donating to organizations like United Way and partnering agencies. Our area is prime for innovative work across private and non-profit and government sectors to feed the hungry, to educate and make more options available for those who are eating poorly.
And, if you are interested, you can follow Durham’s foodscape at CarpeDurham.