Be Bilal “Little Oasis” Pilot Program
Access to quality food is an issue of inequality that can no longer be ignored and that will be addressed by Be Bilal under the “Community Life” initiative. The term “food desert”, defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food” has been popularized in recent years and is an everyday reality for millions of Americans living in impoverished communities. In one example, Gary, Indiana, a city of 100,000 people, has only three grocery stores that sell fresh produce. Without reliable transportation, resources for public transportation or available supermarkets, it is an ongoing struggle for disadvantaged communities to access quality and nutritional food needed to survive.
The purpose of Little Oasis is to provide micro-grants to convenience stores, gas stations, corner, and liquor stores in food deserts to provide an alternative to the unhealthy food items commonly sold at these stores. Funds will provide an incentive for local stores in these communities to sell more fresh produce and provide healthy food options that would greatly help these communities improve their diets. The grants will be one-time gifts where the profit from the sales of the produce can to be used to buy more fresh produce in hopes that the demand for produce will turn into regular product sold at the stores. Each Little Oasis display will also have detailed descriptions of the Little Oasis initiative, information about Be Bilal, and a few nutritional facts to educate the community about healthy eating options. As a result the corner store will become an “oasis” in a food desert.
The goal of this pilot program is for Be Bilal to provide a proactive solution to the malnutrition crisis in disadvantaged communities; a crisis that leads to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and many other health issues and disparities. Agricultural Marketing Service. “AMS -Creating Access to Healthy, Affordable Food.” AMS – Creating Access to Healthy, Affordable Food. USDA, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.