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In food desert, Walnut Hills residents turn to gardens for nutritious food

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Posted at 5:55 PM, Dec 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-04 20:06:20-05

CINCINNATI — After two years of living without a nearby grocery store, Walnut Hills residents have taken to growing gardens to provide nutritious food for the families living in the neighborhood, but there's a catch: the neighborhood is growing faster than the gardens can accommodate.

The poverty level in Walnut Hills is around 50 percent, according to Elizabeth Winters Waite, who serves as the CFO of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. The organization has toiled tirelessly to plant community gardens in the neighborhood in order to keep fresh and nutritious food growing for residents.

"We've been a food desert since Kroger left in March of 2017," said Waite.

Waite said she would like to see a lot on every block designated for people growing food for one another, but she knows that's not likely. But the consequences of a lack of fresh food sources in the neighborhood hang heavy over residents.

"There is no fresh produce market in this area, so a number of the beds that we have here were designated for donation," said Brenda Baker, one of the gardeners in the Walnut Hills community garden. She is one of many who work to grow fresh food in plots to donate to pop-up stands in the area.

Residents pay what they can at the pop-up stands or, if they can't pay at all, get the food for free to take home to their families. But access is on a first-come, first-served basis and it's a struggle for gardeners to grow enough to provide for the neighborhood, which Waite said accounts for around 7,000 residents.

Skylights and other accommodations are helping some gardeners to continue growing food year-round, but there are still financial and logistical challenges. The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation is asking residents for help in creating more gardens, to provide more food for those in need.

"A number of the beds that we have here were designated for donation," said Baker, who added that being able to help her community has meant a lot to her. "It's been really fulfilling to be a part of something like that."

The Walnut Hills produce pop-up shop can be found in the old Kroger Parking Lot.