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Free produce distribution in Morgan Park to ease food desert issue

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DULUTH, MN. -- The Morgan Park community is known as a bit of a food desert.

Now, to help alleviate the burden on residents of the area, a UMD faculty member and student are distributing free produce.

The UMD members grew produce on the university's farm with a long-term goal of establishing a community garden in Morgan Park.

Duluth NAACP's Health and Environmental Equity Committee is raising awareness for the Morgan Park Food Justice Community Garden by giving away produce grown at UMD’s Land Lab.

In urban areas, a food desert would be an area about a mile away from a grocery store, but for the Morgan Park area, they are ten miles away from the nearest store.

This is why, when UMD was forced to close due to COVID-19, the group had extra produce and decided to give it away to those who need it.

Food items include cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans for the community to take home, something that is a much healthier alternative than stopping at a gas station.

"For some people, the cheaper and easier option would just be to go to a gas station and just get some snacks or get takeout or delivery or fast food or something and as we all know those aren't the healthiest options," said Mealat Worku, a UMD Land Lab intern.

Any food that is not taken home on a given night is given to the Thunderbird-Wren Halfway House in Morgan Park, which serves people in recovery from substance abuse.

Monday night's free produce distribution was in it's sixth and final week, but organizers said they are hopeful that something like this will continue.

The next step is taking the community’s plans for their garden to UMD professor Abigail Clarke-Sather’s “Introduction to Design” engineering students, who are modeling the proposed garden to get cost estimates.

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Ryan Compeau

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