Friday, July 10, 2009

Is California's Central Valley the "new Appalachia"?

Listen to this NPR report, "Central Valley Disconnect: Rich Land, Poor Nutrition." The dateline is Kettleman City, California, population 1,499. Here's an excerpt that quotes Kettleman native Yesenia Ayala, 20, who works for Food Link, which distributes free fruits and vegetables to the community.

"We are a rural community surrounded by fields and crops."

* * *

"We don't have grocery stores, which is very hard," Ayala says. "We have to drive 35 miles in order to get to our nearest grocery store."

A city ordinance in nearby Fresno actually prohibited farmer's markets until last year. The story continues with a quote from Mark Arax, the grandson of an Armenian fruit picker who formerly reported for the LA Times:

"We're living in a region that produces the finest fruits and vegetables in the world, and yet the children of this valley rarely taste those fruits and vegetables," he says.

Alongside the most intensive farm belt the world has ever known, he says, is this stunning poverty. Some neighborhoods in Fresno have the most concentrated poverty of any city in the country, and all the pathology that goes along with it: the drugs and the gangs.

"We produce more meth and more milk than any region in the country," he says.

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