After Frayser food hub, group opens in Orange Mound

[Pictured Above: Austin Avery III and his wife, Reesie, speak at the ribbon cutting ceremony for a new sustainability hub in Orange Mound.]

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (The Daily Memphian) –

With a community garden, seed library and leftover food from local restaurants, The Original Project Team opened its sustainability food hub in Orange Mound on Friday morning, July 1.

The hub at 2854 Douglass Ave. is a nonprofit led by Austin and Reesie Avery hoping to provide meals and ways to prepare them in an area that struggles to have food readily available.

Orange Mound is not technically considered a food desert, local developer Dwayne A. Jones said, but access to food could be better since many people do not have reliable transportation. The nearest grocery store is a Save A Lot at 2258 Lamar Avenue, about a 30-minute walk.

In addition to the garden and seed library, the hub will hopefully house a family who will oversee its operations. The partnership with local restaurants leads to the businesses saving food that would usually go to waste. Organizers will give out complimentary to-go plates of food grown in the garden and rescued from restaurants. The community garden will grow produce such as kale, spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers.

[Pictured Above: A hydroponics growing system sits in the front room of a new sustainability hub in Orange Mound.]

Jones designed the house on Douglass. He lives not too far away, and recalls growing up in the neighborhood, delivering copies of the Tri-State Defender and playing box hockey.

Jones said the impact of the project is multifaceted.

“It’s transformational on several fronts,” he said. Along with its impact in combating food insecurity, he said another aspect it provides is a boost to the value in the community. The project provides a new home in the community, after transforming it from a blighted property.

The Orange Mound sustainability hub, which Avery said was a year in the making, is the group’s second, joining one in Frayser, where Reesie grew up. The couple created Morningside Sustainability Hub there, in partnership with the American Heart Association. Along with the hubs, they also run a neighborhood café in Frayser.

Reesie spoke of the impact she’s seen in their Frayser work. She said an 18-year-old neighbor completed one of their grow bed projects without being asked.

[Pictured Above: Shirley McKenzie places placards in the raised plant beds at a new sustainability hub in Orange Mound.]

“This will be what we expect to see when we go into communities in the neighborhood, that when we’re moving around and establishing in one place, that we’re not just leaving it. We’re leaving it for the neighbors and the community to take over and take pride in it,” she said.

Through the food hubs, they aim to prevent food insecurity and fight chronic health issues like hypertension and diabetes by infusing healthy meals into the diets of people who may not get them otherwise.

Along with growing food, the organization has also provided cooking classes in Frayser.

“Having access is only part of the solution. Now you need to know what to do with it,” Avery said in a video for the American Heart Association.

Barbara McClain traveled from San Antonio to attend the opening. She has partnered with The Original Project Team and helped some of her friends in St. Louis start their own food hub.

The projects receive support from sponsorships through groups like Ring Container Technologies. That sponsorship also allowed for things like tables at the café. Kevin Frye and his family got involved with the project, through his work with the container company.

But his wife, Jennifer, said the connection went beyond the professional relationship. The family challenges their children at Christmas to give away money. They chose The Original Project Team because they believed in the group’s work.

Sponsorships and small donations held equal weight in the development of the hubs.

“If we got $20, we celebrated like we got $20,000,” McClain said.

Daja E. Henry is a Reporter with The Daily Memphian. She may be contacted at
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