Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vegan MoFo in NYC, Day 3: Food Politics

Hey guys. Tonight's post was supposed to be a bit more interesting for you. Regular readers may remember that last year I volunteered at a food pantry bringing local, organic, seasonal vegetables to low-income families who otherwise would not be able to afford them. I had a blast and have since volunteered in numerous ways with the organization who set it up, Just Food.
They are not a vegan organization but rather work to support local farmers and healthy food for everyone, which I feel is also important. I was intending on volunteering tonight at a Let Us Eat Local event, which I worked last year (recap) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Pure Food and Wine, Angelica's and Candle 79 were the vegan restaurants who participated, but there was plenty more vegan food to be had. Anyway, I'm sick as hell and we don't need to get into details or kill anyone's appetite but I should not be anywhere near food being served to other people.
SO, instead, I thought I'd show you why Just Food's work is so important:
New York is an expensive city to live in. Ironically, it's also crowded and dirty and depressing. New Yorkers are stressed and busy and eating unhealthfully because there's no time to keep up. In a city like this, health is far too often only for the rich.
The parts of Brooklyn that I can afford to live in (Bushwick and Bed-Stuy for the last five years - and I've seen a lot of changes in that short time span) are rife with bodegas, where you can buy microwaveable hamburgers at 3am, chips, beef jerky, sugary "juices," and the like - but are technically considered "food deserts." We don't have many grocery stores and, for the most part, their sparse produce is less than par. This is not true for all areas of Brooklyn. Gentrification is certainly changing this, as is the work of organizations like Just Food!
Here's a photo tour of my local vegetable oasis in the middle of Bushwick; Mr. Kiwi's:

 Nestled right under the Myrtle-Broadway JMZ train stop, you'd never think it was such a haven.

Though I'm admittedly a little wary about buying food from under train tracks. They DID sell organic kale out here, but that might be counteracted by the grit falling from the abovehead tracks.

 Inside, super cheap actual vegetables PLUS the lowest priced Organic Girl mixes I've ever seen.

Okay, this part is actually gentrification. But it's nice to have access to Organic Veg*n soups if you wanted. For the record, I don't think I've ever bought these. Worth it? Not worth it?

My biggest gripe with most grocery stores in this area is that IF they carry tofu (and a lot of them don't for something that's so basic) it is incredibly overpriced, since it's sort of a luxury item. I've seen tofu go for 3.29, which is RIDICULOUS. How are we going to get low income people to eat less meat if the alternatives are stale chickpeas from a bodega or wicked expensive tofu?? Mr. Kiwi carries reasonably priced tofu. I think this was 2.29 a pack, which is pricier than Trader Joe's, but, you know.

To be honest, I try to keep my soy intake to a minimum and I'm not a huge fan of meat analogues, BUT if that is your deal (and it can be for many people who are just transitioning out of a meaty diet), good on ya - Mr Kiwi has you covered there too - Tofurky slices, Gimme Lean, even Field Roast sausages! For whatever reason, tempeh is much harder to find in these parts.

Prepared meals, to boot! These are not inexpensive ($4 or so), though they're cheaper here than in Manhattan (well, everything is) but it's nice to know they're around.

And actual produce! And crisp! And varied! They also specialize in Asian vegetables - I love finding bok choy and daikon among the usual lettuce and broccoli.

More vegetables. This may not mean a lot to you guys, but you've got to understand what else we're dealing with here. Or maybe you won't until I photo-tour you through a bodega.
There are random fruit carts throughout Brooklyn, and there are better neighborhoods for nutrition. I think we're headed in the right direction. Til then, all hail Kiwi!
Nota bene: on this trip, I picked up raw kale chips, celery, kale, almond butter, a can of diced tomatoes, nori sheets, mushrooms, and potatoes for 30 bucks. Not bad! Also not my usual grocery run, but you'll see later what I made with (some of) it.
Enjoy the night!

25 comments:

  1. Mr. Kiwi's looks incredible! What a gem in an area probably not very full of groceries--love that you can buy raw kale chips there. The only place I can get something like that is our co-op and they're hella expensive. Sad hat.

    Feel better soon chica!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the raw kale chips were a surprise even to me! I kind of got them just because I was excited they were there...

      Delete
  2. Sorry to hear you're under the weather and missed your volunteer stint, but thanks for the tour. It's great to see stores like this popping up in under served neighborhoods. Without alternatives, people will never change their eating habits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! It's not that people really love chips and beef jerky, but that there is nothing else to pick, and neighborhood stores and the government are fueling never-ending health problems and food addictions. It's really sick.

      Delete
  3. I love what organizations like Just Food do. It's so important that everyone have access to healthy, affordable food.

    Looks like a great little market. The produce is presented so well and does look pretty fresh.

    I hope you feel better soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I had a great time working for them. Thanks :)

      Delete
  4. What a great store! I've seen those bodegas and I know exactly what you are talking about. While not ideal, this store is definitely one I'd go to if I needed some produce or last minute ingredients! That is really pricey for tofu but the prepared meals while technically are still expensive are actually reasonably priced compared to Whole Foods!

    Feel better soon!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right - I still do most of my shopping elsewhere but on a weekend when I don't want to go into the city, it's nice to be able to walk to some specialty goods.

      Delete
  5. Have you eaten at Candle 79? I miss NY sometimes. I used to shop at bodegas and Korean markets.Kale chips! and almond butter. Yay. You are doing a great job covering NY.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have not! maybe I will make it this moFo. I talked to the woman at the C79 stall and she was like, "you've GOT to come by!" and I was like "I know, I know...but it's all the way uptown!" Ha! Glad you are enjoying the tour so far :)

      Delete
  6. Pretty awesome for living under a train track in the middle of a food desert! Hope you feel better soon.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Really, really enjoying your New York MoFoing - you had me at the Manhattan post, but I love the look of this little store too. Anywhere with a big mound of veggies groaning on the shelves gets my thumbs up. I think the most vegan stuff you can get in corner shops around here is soy milk if you're lucky!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks, Joey. most of the other stores sound like yours - thats why I was amazed to stumble upon this place. I forgot to mention they even have a juice bar!

      Delete
  8. 99 cent per lb eggplants? Holy shit, you can't even get them that cheap here! And it's been at least 4 years since I've had those soups - I remember liking them, but that was also before I learned how to cook, so...who knows. That looks like one hell of a store for being located under a train, ha ha! Feel better!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Want me to mail you some eggplants?

      Delete
  9. I've often wondered how easy it is to grocery shop in NY, both to get what you need and not break the bank. Of course, I've heard tell the grocery prices in Connecticut are some of the highest in the country. :-/

    My sweetie has bought Amy's soups from time to time and shared them with me. They're pretty good, and we appreciate Amy's as a company because of their ingredient lists: if something is vegan, it says so right at the beginning of the list.

    I hope you are feeling better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's doable! But yeah, I don't think CT is much different from NY grocery price wise. For me, the hardest part about shopping in NY is that so few people own cars that they take lighter shopping trips more often and end up picking up random things they don't really need each time.

      Delete
  10. Hey Maud!

    Hope you're feeling better.

    I've heard radio articles about food deserts in big cities...no doubt, it almost seems like a conspiracy. It's great that you've got a little oasis in your neighborhood, and the work that Just Food is doing is so great...good nutrition is the number one way to stay healthy and everyone should have access to healthy foods that they can afford. How much is the Organic Girl? It's 3.99 around here...kind of pricey.

    I'm sorry I've been absent most of the summer...just crazy around here. But, I had to check in for MoFo; I like your Mofo in New York idea...it's fun to get a glimpse of a real city from such a tame outpost as Seattle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose! I'm so happy to hear from you, crawling out from under all the crazy!
      A conspiracy is definitely what it sounds like sometimes. These neighborhoods are considered expendable to some, so who cares what kind of food we get - or don't?
      I believe this Organic Girl is 3.99 too, which is expensive but I think I've seen it go up to 4.50 in other places...
      Hope you are well!

      Delete
  11. Wow! Great 3rd post. And while sick as a dog too. I think you should get at least two days MoFoing credit for this.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great post! I was just explaining the food desert phenomenon to some people today and I'm not sure they got it, but I laid the ground work. I'd like to find an organization like Just Food in Baltimore to get involved in. I'll have to do some research. Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Amy's soups are a staple in my pantry; they're really good and hearty. Sounds like you could have benefitted from the no-chicken noodle!

    As Miss Rachel said, make sure you see the word vegan first off in the ingredients; some are vegetarian (boo, hiss).

    ReplyDelete
  14. I do not like pre made soups, and most of the amy's ones are at least $2.50/can (more like $4 around here) which I find insane.

    ReplyDelete

Leave a message and I'll call you back.