Stone Soup Cafe Is Working To Provide Low-Income Citizens Healthier Food Options

Turnips, Kale, squash, and more are springing up in downtown Fairbanks.
Amanda Brennan has a look at the people working to provide healthier options for low-income Fairbanks citizens for this week's Health Watch.
On the corner of 12th and Lacey in a grass covered lot are colorful raised boxes that are sprouting sunflowers, nasturtiums, potatoes, and more. The Stone Soup Café, is working hard to eliminate food insecurity, an issue that most think is only a problem in urban cities in the Lower 48. Food deserts, however, are a reality in Alaska, and downtown Fairbanks, is no exception. Executive Director of Bread Line, Inc. and all its affiliates, such as The Stone Soup Café and Garden, talks about how downtown Fairbanks falls within the definition of a food desert.
"So, a food desert as described by the U.S. Department of Agriculture anywhere outside of a one-mile radius from a grocery store in an urban area and outside of a ten-mile radius in a rural area. So areas here even in downtown Fairbanks that are more than a mile away from any grocery store, could be considered sitting in a food desert."
The Stone Soup Garden started in 2015, with land generously leased from the Hospital Foundation for $1 per year. The first summer produced 700-900 lbs of produce. The summer of 2016 provided over 2,000 pounds of fresh produce. Bermudez says that with the garden, people within the central Fairbanks area, can now have access to food with high nutritional value, rather than relying solely on processed food found in gas stations or convenience stores. He goes on to describe the various crops that are currently growing in the Stone Soup Garden.
"We're growing a variety of different crops. We have potatoes, we have squash, strawberries, lettuce bachchoy and a whole number of different produce that has been donated to by a lot of generous Fairbanksians. We have donations from Calypso Farms, from Pingo Farms and a number of different places here. And some of this starts are from us and what we grow in the café ourselves."
In addition to Calypso and Pingo Farms donating crops, the Fairbanks Community Food Bank also donates fresh produce and other perishables to the Stone Soup Café. Out of the 800,000 pounds of food provided to community members last year, almost 20,000 pounds of that was perishable food given to the Stone Soup Café to supplement the garden. CEO of the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Anne Weaver discusses why the food bank has partnered with Stone Soup to help eliminate the food desert.
"So often in America we tend to have easy access to cheap, processed foods. The problem with that is that is not good for your body. And so we are delighted to partner with Stone Soup Café on things like produce, on you know, locally grown meat because it allows to put naturally healthy food into those who can't afford it"
To find out more information on how to receive produce from the Stone Soup Garden, call the Bread Line office at 452-1974. For this week's Health Watch, this is Amanda Brennan reporting.