In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting women who’ve made an impact in South Florida. One local woman started a nonprofit and is breaking barriers in low-income communities so residents can make healthy choices.
Asha Walker is the founder of Health in the Hood, a non-profit that builds vegetable gardens in underserved areas.
“We’ve got nine farms across food deserts in South Florida. We’re mainly in Liberty City, Opa-Locka, Miami Gardens, and Little Haiti. Those are our central locations,” said Asha.
Food deserts are low-income neighborhoods that are more than a mile away from a grocery store with fresh food. There are over 300 food deserts in South Florida.
“So if you’re a mom trying to feed your kids, you’re going to go for that Chef Boyardee that’s full of preservatives and highly processed foods, sodium, saturated fats, all these things that are contributing to diseases in food desert neighborhoods,” said Asha.
Operating since 2013, Health in the Hood serves about 900 families in need, providing fresh vegetables such as collard greens, broccoli, sweet potato, tomatoes and more.
“I would drive home from work and I would take shortcuts and go through Overtown. [I would] come from my gym and have a healthy meal and realized there were moms in these communities that didn’t have the resources, didn’t have the transportation, didn’t have the knowledge and it made me really angry. So I put together my skills and background in grant writing, fundraising, community engagement, and I also knew how to grow some stuff, and Health in the Hood was born,” said Asha.
“My kids were so excited because they were like ‘I can’t believe people grew this in our little neighborhood,’” said Alicia Fields.
Alicia is a mother of four and receives food from Health in Hood’s garden in Liberty City. She met Asha at one of the nonprofit’s pull up pantries. Now Alicia is a volunteer.
“When the pandemic first hit, my mind was everywhere. After talking with [Asha] and just having one conversation, she’s so inspiring. I always tell her ‘you don’t really know how strong your words are, you’re so inspirational.’ She just has a different outlook on life,” said Alicia.
Asha’s goal is to end food insecurity and teach people how to reclaim their health and food system by growing their own food.
“Before we go in and plant a farm, we knock doors and meet people in the community. People really take ownership of the farms. So there’s not really a set time, there’s no open or close, there’s no fences in our farms, everything is open for our community. It becomes an organic process in that which people understand when radishes are ready, when the tomatoes are ready to go, they come out and make a salad for that night. It’s really been an organic process that’s evolved over the last eight years,” said Asha.
Since 2013, Health in the Hood has distributed 8,000 pounds of free fresh local produce to families. To support the nonprofits mission or to get more information, click here.