DREAMS of Wilmington looks to help alleviate pain of food desert through education

DREAMS of Wilmington looks to help alleviate pain of food desert through education

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - At DREAMS of Wilmington, the arts are used as a way to build up the community and its youth.

Soon, that will also include the culinary arts.

The non-profit organization is in the beginning stages of building a learning kitchen at its Northside neighborhood facility.

Executive Director Kevin Blackburn said the idea came from looking around the neighborhood, and seeing the high level of food insecurity its residents experience.

The USDA defines a food desert as a census-tract where residents do not have readily available fresh and nutritious food. In many cases, those tracts correlate with low-income neighborhoods, which can present additional barriers to healthy food due to the affordability of fresh foods and lack of transportation.

Blackburn said for many Northside residents, accessing the nearest healthy food options, which are one or two miles away, is nearly impossible.

“When we saw that, and thought about our kids, we thought, well, culinary arts is an art," he said. "We can probably find a way to bring all that together, and then we can offer cooking classes, offer nutrition classes, find a way for families to cook together, you know, bring everyone together, focus on the community, and really try to tackle that issue of the food desert being a thing.”

Thanks to a grant provided by the Landfall Foundation, Blackburn said strides have been made in the design for the renovation of a portion of their “Garage” space on Fanning Street.

The new learning kitchen will house a full commercial kitchen, but one designed to make learning approachable for the program’s youth, as well as their families.

One example, Blackburn said, will be mirrors behind stoves an ovens, so even those who can’t stand right in front of a pot or pan will be able to see the action.

He also said they hope to partner with local chefs for the programming of the kitchen.

“We really want, just like with all the other arts that we provide, we want it to be top-notch, high-quality, not just, ‘some of something is better than nothing’ you know, we really want it to be the best for our kids,” he said.

The DREAMS kitchen will join others in Wilmington also in the works, including one at the MLK Community Center and the YMCA.

The City of Wilmington owns the DREAMS facility, but emails show administrators and staff have been in favor of the renovations.

Blackburn said there is still room for the community to get involved with the project, particularly as the construction phase gets underway.

For more information, visit dreamswilmington.org or call 772-1501.

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