Living

Creating an oasis in a 'food desert'

Published 4:08 PM ET, Wed November 27, 2013
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CNN Hero Robin Emmons picks spinach with Danny Phillips near Charlotte, North Carolina. When Emmons learned that more than 72,000 people in Charlotte lack access to fresh produce, she ripped up her backyard and started growing fruits and vegetables for area residents. David S. Holloway/CNN
Access to fresh food is an issue for many communities throughout the United States. According to the Department of Agriculture, nearly 10% of the U.S. population lives in low-income areas more than a mile from a supermarket. David S. Holloway/CNN
Emmons holds a handful of peppers just picked by volunteers. Since 2008, her nonprofit, Sow Much Good, has grown more than 26,000 pounds of produce for underserved communities in Charlotte. David S. Holloway/CNN
The Sow Much Good market is stocked with the freshest of "whatever is in season." Emmons strives to make her food as affordable as possible. People are also able to use their food stamps to purchase anything she sells, including seeds and seedlings so they can grow the food themselves. David S. Holloway/CNN
"When I see people coming to the farm stand ... I feel encouraged," Emmons said. "I feel like I am giving them a gift -- a healthier, longer, better, more delicious life." David S. Holloway/CNN
Emmons and her volunteers distribute recipe cards and urge customers to attend the group's free cooking demonstrations and canning classes. It's all part of their mission to help people take control over what they are eating and improve their health. David S. Holloway/CNN
"Healthy food is a basic human right," Emmons said. Today, she has 200 volunteers helping her tend 9 acres of crops. David S. Holloway/CNN
Emmons stocks produce at her market early one morning. David S. Holloway/CNN
Benjamin Beall, 9, shops at the Sow Much Good market with his mother and sister. David S. Holloway/CNN
Emmons helps customers identify different types of peppers. David S. Holloway/CNN
A T-shirt hangs on the wall of the Sow Much Good market. David S. Holloway/CNN
Eventually, Emmons would love to expand her organization across the country, combating "food deserts" wherever they exist. For now, she's devoted to helping Charlotte residents. David S. Holloway/CNN