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Organic eating in the City

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

All across metro Atlanta are urban communities known as "food deserts." Meaning they don't have many grocery stores, or local growers.

But in Atlanta's Castleberry Hill neighborhood, a small convenience store is trying to buck that trend.

Alphonzo Cross and his sister opened The Box Car Grocer two years ago, offering healthy, fresh food to city-dwellers. And Cross says, at the time, a lot of people wondered if they could really survive.

He says the perception is, "That folks in these communities don't eat healthy. Don't care about health. Which is completely inaccurate and blatantly false." He believes, "The challenge is that these communities have been left behind. Have been disenfranchised for quite some time."

Cross thinks to grow a strong community, you have to feed it well. And at The Box Car Grocer, a good bit of the food the sell is organic. But what is organic food?

Cross says, "Organic really just means that it's un-tampered with, right out of the ground."

But he knows eating organic isn't cheap, it can add up quickly, "And so therein lies a really big challenge for most people."

Cross says if you want to eat better, start with fresh produce, like, "Fruits and vegetables, apples, bananas, oranges. Kale, spinach, broccoli. These are all foods that, produce, in a sense is the most inexpensive way to eat healthy food."

To save money, shop what's in season, and grown locally. And buy in bulk - to stretch your purchases into several meals.

If you eat out a lot, cut back, and put the money you save - into buying fresh. Cross explains, "Everyone can eat healthfully, but I think it really does begin and end with being able to prepare your foods, cook your foods so you're getting items in larger quantities, bulk, if you will. A whole chicken. A whole bag of rice."

Then – Cross says - plan your meals ahead of time,

"Preparing it, and letting that last through the week, to feed you and your whole family."

If you eat meat, Cross says you need to know where it comes from, and how it was raised.

He says eating for your health - may be a little harder on your wallet. But - to him - it's worth it. He says, "You can either pay for food up front. And not have to pay for it then, on the backside of our lives. Or we cannot pay for it up front, and definitely pay for on the back end. But, no matter what, you're going to pay for it.

The Box Car Grocer and many farmers markets accept EBT, or federal food assistance benefits.

Cross says they hope to grow their business, and eventually open up similar healthy "convenient markets" in cities across the country, concentrating on urban communities where fresh food is hard to find.

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