In conversations about how cities ideally ought to run, you often hear the term “level playing field.” That’s meant to describe an urban environment that’s equally accessible to everybody – physically, but also socio-economically.
The concept behind this fundamental urban planning is, given that there are inevitably going to be wealth differences between different parts of town, as much of the structure of the city as can be controlled by ordinances and planning will ensure there are equally-distributed services like adequate public transportation, sanitation, green spaces and foliage. And conversely, there are not unequally created vast acres of concrete and food deserts.
As you know if you’ve ever lived in a city, these basic tenets are not as easy to implement and provide as they might seem. And, despite its relatively compact size and adequate financial resources, Baton Rouge is no exception.
We’re the seat of State government and so our legislators see first hand every day, as they navigate the city, exactly where our deficits lie. And still, the city and its politicians can evidently only do so much to provide residents with the level playing field we all want as our urban foundation.
In Baton Rouge, we’re fortunate to have people and organizations who have stepped up to independently improve our social system and try and make the city a better place for all of us. Two of these people and organizations are Stephanie’s guests on this edition of Out to Lunch.
Samantha Morgan is Projects Manager at an organization called The Walls Project. The Walls Project’s self-described mission is to lead programs, events, and alliances that work to break through and tear down the societal walls that discourage or prevent people from living safe, healthy, and prosperous lives.
Even if you think you’ve never heard of the organization, if you’ve spent any time at all in Baton Rouge you’ve seen the murals they’ve sponsored and created all over town. They’re too numerous to enumerate but if you’ve ever noticed an eye-catching mural on a wall in the city it’s more than likely one of The Wall’s Project walls.
But painting on walls, if perhaps the most visible aspect of their work, is only a very small part of the organization’s activities. Their programs range from a Tech Academy and a Coding Boot Camp in which kids who might not normally have access to such education learn tech skills that can lead to well-paid employment, to Baton Roots, a community farm and garden network.
Darlene Adams Rowland is Executive Director of BREADA (Big River Economic and Agricultural Development Alliance), the organization that owns and runs the Red Stick Farmer’s Market.
BREADA was initially created to “increase economic opportunities for small farmers,” which in its quarter century of existence it has certainly accomplished.
In bringing the products of small farmers to the city, BREADA has also created a permanent downtown market and a mobile farmers market serving those limited-access neighborhoods we have come to call food deserts. They also provide incentives to assist low income families to increase access to fresh food, and have created a kids club that teaches healthy lifestyles to our youngest market shoppers.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. Photos by Erik Otts.