Sane Frayser tries to resolve Memphis’ meals deserts

One man’s diagnosis resulted in dozens of Memphians receiving free, healthy groceries in parts of the city that lacked grocery stores and restaurants.

Austin Avery launched Healthy Frayser and The Original Project when Austin was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease. Then it happened, as he says, “my wife went crazy.”

Reesie Avery began a quest to clean up the couple’s diet and switch to a plant-based one. But the couple’s dietary change turned into something more – a mission to transform the neighborhood.

The original project is an organization building sustainability centers. In Memphis, they built hydroponic greenhouses, composted them, and helped save food. They took unused leftover food from restaurants and distributed it to those in need. So far they have two sustainability centers in Frayser.

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In November, the organization expanded and launched a weekly meal program at a Frayser mobile home park – Redwood Estates – where residents and anyone who wants one on Friday afternoon and evening can enjoy free, healthy meals.

“We’re giving you the opportunity to come here and have a healthy way to take your family home with you regardless of financial problems,” said Reesie Avery.

Reesie Avery noted that many residents of the mobile home park and the surrounding neighborhoods are working parents and when they get home they may just need a break from cooking. And instead of taking them out or buying something at the grocery store, the cafe offers a healthier, free option.

Austin Avery said, “When you are in this area, you are usually in a food wasteland. That means you won’t have access to healthy food. So we overcome these barriers and help break down some of them. Number one is transportation, so we settled in the middle of a mobile home community…. Number two is money. We give it to them for free because our lovely partners and local restaurant and food donors give it to us. “

When the healthy neighborhood cafe opened, dozens turned up. Some, like Oscar Thunston, drove as far as the Orange Mound.

Thunston, 72, a Vietnam War veteran, has high blood pressure. Through his insurance with Christ Community Healthcare, he can now get free meals in the Frayser Café.

“That’s a good thing,” said Thunston. “If they could expand it from here,” that would be great, he said, noting the need in Orange Mound.

Future expansion plans are on the minds of the Averys and plans are in the works.

“We found five postcodes that were food unsafe, and now we’re just going through this list. We wanted to make sure that at Frayser we did it so that it was sustainable. I think we achieved that goal and I think we are at this point now and the model is reproducible, right. Now we’re thinking about going to the next zip code, which is likely to be Orange Mound, “said Austin Avery.

Samuel Hardiman covers the government and politics of the City of Memphis for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @samhardiman.

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