Fed Up: Food Desertification and Apartheid in Baltimore

By: Comrade Carlo

“I’m tired from people begging for Christmas food. They didn’t care about the kind – turkeys or you know. They just needed food.” – Reverend Annie Chambers.

Half of the New Afrikan community in Baltimore live in food deserts. Whether we call them “Healthy Food Priority Areas” or just a plain old food desert, people are struggling to find affordable, healthy, edible food. But we aren’t helpless against the combined forces of businesses and government trying to screw us over. Reverend Annie Chambers started a food distribution with her neighbors and husband back in March 2020 when the pandemic lockdown measures began to seriously impact the people’s access to supplies. We must support the masses as Communists when they take measures for their own well being, while step by step elevating their potential and consciousness and learning from them. In our support for the food distribution, we have gathered all manner of goods that the people of Douglass Homes asked for: clothes, toys, sanitary supplies, toiletries, and so on. Anything people needed, we made it our mission to deliver, so that folks have more power and control over what they put in their bodies. However, we should not delude ourselves, the only power and control worth having comes from organizing directly for revolution.

This effort is not easy, far from it. The Housing Authority has been hounding our efforts every step of the way. This is class struggle. Threatening folks who went to the distro, and making life difficult for Mrs. Chambers too. Reverend Chambers is an elder in the community, but she was and still is subjected to all forms of harassment from the housing authority and some piggish members of the community who wanted to police the people’s access to free supplies from the distro. The distribution has been a flashpoint for struggle against the ongoing food desertification. We’re fighting a systematic, racist effort to deprive the New Afrikan folks of Baltimore of much-needed nutrition to fight off hunger and disease.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Save-A-Lot closed its location closest to Douglass Homes. This was the only spot for reasonably priced food for anyone in public housing spots over East. But at the start of the pandemic, Save-A-Lot started some serious price gouging, typical capitalists. They raised the price of a bag of potatoes from $2-3 to $6. A dozen eggs was increased to $6. Folks with cars started driving the several miles to the nearest affordable grocer. And folks without cars had to hop on the bus, which of course limits the amount you can get at a time. As a result Save-A-Lot hemorrhaged business, and they shuttered in the middle of the pandemic, costing a bunch of people their jobs and a convenient food source.

Looking on the map, you’ll notice there are plenty of markets in the area near Douglass Homes over East Baltimore, but I challenge you to find some affordable food there. Most folks are living paycheck to paycheck, and the fixed income is eaten up by rent and utilities. Many folks I interviewed said at the end of the month, they might have $100 for groceries, gas, entertainment, and savings. When I spoke with Reverend Chambers, her husband nodded as she remarked “If this aint a depression then I don’t know what is.” The fact is, the working and poor people of Baltimore live in a purposefully under-developed colony of the United States. Neither Business nor the City give a crap about how most folks get on. All they care about is their wallets. Johns Hopkins is all too happy to hire the people in Douglass for minimum wage to swab the floors of their cancer wards, but what do they give back for all the public resources they suck up with their profiteering? If Johns Hopkins is a hospital that cares about the people’s health more than profit, why don’t they look after folks on their doorstep, why are they landlording over a 1/3 of the city, and why are they suing patients who can’t afford their overpriced care?

This isn’t just a Save-A-Lot problem. Johns Hopkins and the City are working together, if indirectly, to make life harder for folks in Baltimore. People are having to get their groceries from Family Dollar because companies like Food Depot are still doing some serious price gouging, like out in the Belair shopping center. Black folks get side-eyed walking into the Whole Foods and Giant Food stores locations downtown. They get followed and generally made to feel alien. Food desertification is systematic and amounts to genocide. Forcing the poor, majority Black, folks to put all their eggs in one basket and rely on White charity to feed themselves. 

The piggish repression of the food distribution orchestrated by the housing authority, such as petitions to the city to send cops to shut us down, along with the price gouging and eventual shuttering of grocery stores is a disaster for poor Black people. History shows us that it is foolish to rely on colonizers to provide for their victims. 

Another food desert is made everyday in Baltimore. If you are in Bmore and you want to help with the Douglass Homes Distro or the Midtown Winter Supplies drive, or you have an idea that you want to share with us at For The People- Baltimore, we are here to listen and help you accomplish our shared goal of serving the people and supporting our united interest in making revolution.

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