When Brian Rowland, mayor of Prairie View, Texas, became an E Pluribus Unum Fellow, his community was both an agricultural town and a food desert. There was a dollar store, but no grocery store. Local farmers were growing food, then shipping it away to be sold. Residents had to drive a town away just to buy fresh produce. One in four children were experiencing food insecurity.
Rowland knew his community was not alone. Most of Prairie View’s residents are Black, and Black families nationwide are three times as likely to face food insecurity than white families. For Rowland, addressing this was a matter of racial and economic equity. He saw how a lack of access to fresh food impacted his community’s health and wellness. It also had an economic impact, as residents spent their grocery money in other cities. He decided to develop a comprehensive roadmap for food security in his town.
“It was important to frame our conversation about freedom and liberation in our community,” Rowland explained. “When you start depending upon other communities for food, other communities for resources, that’s where the injustice lies. It’s connected—we move from food insecurity, we move to economic injustice. We move to health and public health disparities, to education.”