Baltimore School Girls Awarded $13K To Provide Fresh Food To Residents Affected By Food Apartheid

Four eighth-grade girls at New Song Academy in Baltimore have come together to make a huge difference in the lives of those living in nearby food deserts. Aniya Ponton, Ryeona Watson, Samahj Chestnut, and Logan Reynolds began working with their school last year to develop a community project in partnership with Philanthropy Tank; now they’ve been awarded $13,000 to make their dreams a reality.

Bmore Fresh is a renovated city bus outfitted with shelves, refrigerators, and a point-of-service sales system that travels to food desert areas of Baltimore the girls created to “help other people that couldn’t get to markets.” New Song Academy is in a part of town where locals often have a hard time finding fresh fruits and vegetables. “We all had a way to relate to the situation,” said Ponton. “We all had a problem with our food source.”

Philanthropy Tank has awarded over $700,000 in funding for over 70 student-led projects in Palm Beach County, Florida, and Baltimore since 2015, according to The Baltimore Banner. With the company’s help, 40% of the projects have been turned into nonprofit organizations. Bmore Fresh hopes to do the same.

About one in four Baltimore residents live in areas with sparse access to healthy, fresh produce, according to The Baltimore Banner. These areas, often called food deserts or “healthy food priority areas,” are scattered all across the city, predominantly in East and West Baltimore, where the bulk of Black residents live. The girls’ project bridges the gap between socioeconomic status and lack of nutritional food options by bringing the market to the doors of people who need it the most.

Bmore Fresh will also provide residents with information about other resources that may be available to them, such as community farms that offer affordable and even free healthy produce options. “We do have a lot of free farms that are hiding away, people don’t know they are there,” said Richard McCarter Jr., the girls’ basketball coach and a local resident. “You can just walk on, pick what you want and put it in bags, and walk off.”

The girls’ bus project will be finalized in late July. They hope to start servicing communities before the end of summer.