"First Ants at the Picnic" Community Garden To Reduce Food Deserts In Shreveport
FOOD DESERTS - You’ve probably heard the term “food insecurity”, which is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every household member to live an active, healthy life. Statistics reveal that about one-in-five households could be described as food insecure, as many are in the working-poor category, meaning they can’t qualify for social programs to ease the burden. But not having enough to eat is just a part of the puzzle, access to non-processed food like fresh fruit and vegetables is another problem.
Antonio Zavarce is a Shreveport realtor. He along with his husband Taylor Stevens live an eco-friendly / self-sufficient life using solar to power their home and electric vehicles and they also grow much of their own food in a home garden. Zavarce works with lower income clients showing homes in modest-income neighborhoods.
“When you’re showing houses throughout the year you’re going to notice you’re going to be driving through impoverished neighborhoods,” Zavarce said. “You see that they don’t have access to healthy nutritious food because they live in what is called a ‘food desert’ which means they are located more than one-mile away from a grocery store that sells fresh produce.”
So Antonio and Taylor bought a lot next door to start a community garden for the purpose of growing and giving away vegetables to those living in nearby food deserts. They formed a charitable non-profit called “First Ants at the Picnic”, being inspired by how ants in communities work together to thrive.
“As one ant can perform incredible feats of strength, the power of our community can do great things to move mountains with the goal to eliminating local hunger once and for all,” Zavarce said.
First Ants at the Picnic has received guidance from an LSU Agriculture-Master Gardner, and the We-Grow Together Coalition. They’ve partnered recently with the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana which is providing their garden with a hydroponics system to allow for growing produce year-round. Zavarce says the goal is not just to grow and give food away to those who need it but to help educate them on how to eat better and how to grow their own food. He explains all this is a way for him to help his community.
“These folks have given so much to me and I have to give something back, I want to do something meaningful to them,” Zavarce said.
First Ants hopes their idea spreads as they plan to create community gardens all over Shreveport. If you’d like to help or learn more, check out their Facebook page, just search: First Ants at the Picnic.