The Food March
The Westside used to be flourishing community with numerous local, minority owned business. Now, with the shutting down of the community’s last business, its grocery store, residents of the Westside are left with little to no access to the affordable groceries they need for their families. For some, access to life’s essentials is as easy as a drive to a grocery store. For Westside residents, access to the essentials is hampered by having no access to a car and an under-serviced public transportation system. Worse yet, many of the residents are elderly and confined to wheelchairs, making their journey of more than three miles round-trip a serious challenge.
After seeing promises of a neighborhood grocery store come and go, Westside residents decided to organize a march to bring attention to their challenge and begin the process of making their community the kind of place they want to live in. In order to learn the skills necessary to mobilize their neighbors, garner media coverage and begin fostering community leadership capable of addressing these long-term challenges, residents reached out to members of Chattanooga Organized for Action. Working with COA organizers, residents planned a march which would stretch from the site of the old abandoned grocery store to the next closes source for their needs: a store more than three miles away, round-trip.
On December 18th, 2010 over 100 people stood in solidarity with each other to go the distance and walk the walk with the least among us. Upon arriving at Beuhler’s Grocery Store, marchers raised over $700 dollars to buy much needed Christmas groceries to donate to the Angel Food Ministries at the Renaissance Presbyterian Church in the heart of the Westside community.
Carrying back groceries and supplies such a long distance brought exhaustion to marchers who could now understand the daily challenges of Westside residents, but the effort spurred the continued movement of grassroots organizing in the Westside community. Within a few weeks of the march residents of the Dogwood Manor housing development started organizing to form a tenant’s union capable of addressing the systemic problems of poverty and lack of food access prevalent in the Westside community. The movement to organize and unify the community continues to this day as Westside residents continue their partnership with Chattanooga Organized for Action.