Now, don't get me wrong. I believe each and every kid should be given a good education. What God was teaching us was specific to our family and our relationship with Him. He was slowly opening our eyes to our city and it's brokenness. Instead of running from the process, we decided to lean into it. It wasn't easy. I can't tell you how many times I questioned if we were making choices for our kids that could lead to years of recovery. This was our faith journey. We had to believe that God is who He says He is. We chose to be obedient even though at times we thought we might be a bit crazy.
A year after our we put out kids in our local elementary school, they all got accepted to a new charter school further in the city. It was a charter school whose mission was to recognize "the city as our classroom". Those few years at that school was such a gift for our family, for it was at this school our eyes were opened to the challenges that face so many living in Baltimore City. One of which was the fact that 1/4 of those in Baltimore City live in a food desert. A food desert is defined as the following:
- An area where the distance to a supermarket or supermarket alternative is more than ¼ mile
- The median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level
- Over 30% of households have no vehicle available
- The average Healthy Food Availability Index (HFAI) score for all food stores is low
The school our kids attended started a fresh fruits and vegetable program in order to introduce kids to fresh produce. I remember once when one of our neighbor kids came over and I offered him a peach. He said, "What's that?" Many kids in the city have never seen an orange outside of a Dole fruit cup, let alone a tropical fruit like a kiwi.
On my commute in the morning to the school, every day I'd see an older African American woman sitting outside of her row house with her wooden, grocery store. She had built a couple of wooden boxes, on wheels, with plexiglass doors that could be padlocked. Inside those boxes were items like cereal, crackers and bottled soda for sale. More than half the homes around her were boarded up and there were no grocery stores in walking distance. I often smiled when I saw her, thinking of her ingenuity and desire to live, as well as feed her community. But then my heart would break at the realization that nothing in those boxes was a "whole food" and then I would get angry at the injustice that there was no access to basic food at all.
Those same roller coaster emotions are the ones I navigate with through living life in this city. It seems hopeless but there is something indelibly hopeful about the human spirit.
The other beautiful thing about that charter school was that my kids were in the minority; 70% were African American, 20% Hispanic and 10% White. I will never regret, for a moment, that our kids and our family had the opportunity to see life from a different perspective. We came to discover what privilege we have just from the color of our skin. We discovered even more so, what we'd taken for granted, like access to books for our preschoolers, a car at our disposal, a two-parent home, English as a first language, the ability to travel and explore the world and of course, access to and knowledge of healthy food.
We were getting to know more of our neighbors and our community and I think it was then that we began to fall in love with our city. We were getting to know the people here, who didn't share our story and we were learning to not only see the desperation many live with but were also recognizing the seeds of hope that so many carried.