We all love a good Vegas-adventure tale; strippers with a heart of gold, underdogs betting it all on red, buddies having a wild time and learning a valuable lesson. It is the stuff that fantasies, hit movies and bachelor parties are made of.
I would love to tell you that Las Vegas is all inspiring stories, triumphs of the human spirit and sexy showgirls but I didn’t create this blog to hide the ugly truth from you. That’s the mayor’s job, not mine.
Just blocks away from the glitter and glamor of the famous Las Vegas Strip, are eight zip codes that are categorized as “food deserts.” A food desert is an area in which it is difficult to buy affordable, fresh food.
There are three components to food deserts. The most obvious factor is low-income. The others are ease of access; places to buy decent food within proximity to your home, and vehicle access; the ability to find transportation to get to the store and bring your food home. A combination of these issues, low income, low store access and lack of access to transportation make grocery shopping, as most Americans know it, impossible.
Without large chain grocery stores in impoverished neighborhoods, people are forced to buy from gas stations, pharmacies and bodegas. These convenience stores offer limited food selections, usually frozen or non-perishable, at higher prices. People can’t afford to buy as much, so they purchase foods that are filling but are low in nutrients, sodium-rich and calorie-dense. The high prices cause people to run out of money or SNAP benefits long before the month is over.
This provides people who cook for the food-insecure with both an opportunity and a challenge. Vegetables are not the most popular of dishes in any neighborhood. Most people reading this, myself included are not getting the recommended daily servings. Vegetables aren’t as filling as pastas or meat and there is limited space on each food tray. Unfortunately, the nutrients that most of the food-insecure are lacking, come from the vegetables that they can’t make room for.
One solution that’s been proposed is encouraging home gardens in food deserts. The concept of supplementing a families groceries with gardens is not new. Victory gardens were widely popular in the United States during both World Wars. For some reason, the idea hasn’t caught on in the inner city.
It isn’t always a practical solution. Many people don’t have space, time or knowledge to successfully grow food. SNAP benefits in Nevada cover plants and seeds that grow food but without the education available reliably growing your own food is almost impossible, especially in the Mohave desert. Other options are farmer’s markets, some of which accept SNAP but aren’t as easily accessible as grocery stores or community gardens which don’t produce enough food for everyone. While the big questions that surround food insecurity are too complicated for me to answer in this blog, my garden is overflowing with Ichiban eggplant and Sweet 100 tomatoes, so that’s a good place for me to start.
With an excess of eggplants and tomatoes in mind, I came up with this recipe and I hope that you love it as much as I do. Caponata