Urban Greens

You often hear people dismiss the option of individual action when it comes to impacting climate crisis now being previewed in the less developed part of the world. But you won’t hear that from me, the tree hugger of the family, though I can’t claim anything approaching a perfect record. I did, after all, spend at least a decade helping a client put those PET bottles and packaging into our shopping carts and refrigerators, not to mention virtually every jogger’s hand. That was after I helped another client promote a technology that most certainly contributed to over-fishing.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t making any big decisions. Just one of the little people on the team who wrote and placed stories, came up with new ideas for a trade show, in other words, contributed to business as usual. As a grandson recently remarked about a past event: there’s no changing that. Indeed. It’s only in the present that we make choices that affect the future.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. Some months ago, we stumbled upon Urban Greens Co-op Market in Providence, RI, where we escape from Florida’s summers (and hurricanes). As a former food co-op member, my inner hippie finds the Birkenstock-and-beards vibe familiar (and like family). So does the beautiful produce from local farmers, the free trade coffee, the pasture-raised meats, free-range eggs, nutraceuticals — you get the picture. Yes, Whole Foods (Providence has two) offers many of these items, and even occasionally someone helpful enough to check stock for an item missing from the shelf. But Urban Greens is an oasis in what is commonly known as a food desert of mom-and-pop convenience outfits offering sodas, bagged snacks, candy bars as food. Walking in that neighborhood at a hour when the high school opens, it’s obvious what many teens take for breakfast. Fingers crossed the cafeterias offer a hot meal, salad, fresh fruit.

As problems go, nutrition of children isn’t in the top ten these days, but guess what? It matters. A whole lot. To our future. On this, I’m with British chef, Jamie Oliver, who briefly imported his successful Feed Me Better school campaign to U.S. schools. I’m also a huge fan of Chef Jose Andres whose World Central Kitchen provides free meals during disasters, weather- and pandemic-related.

Membership in Urban Greens is (to us reasonable) $160/year or $40/year over 4 years and it also offers a Food-For-All Membership of $80/year for households that meet federal low-income guidelines. You don’t have to be a member to shop there, just pay more. And, it supports women- and minority-owned businesses.

Yes, this individual choice may seem a very small step in the wicked problem of how we adapt — mitigate isn’t even an option, according to most climate scientists — to our future on a hotter, dryer, less hospitable, planet. Perhaps not the equivalent of choosing to fly less, or not at all. Hold that aviation analogy in your mind for a moment: where we buy our food could be one of those choices that makes the difference between slowing down to a glide and softer landing vs. a nose-dive.