While cities like San Francisco are awash in boutique bread shops and dirt-cheap farmer's markets, others (like Detroit) don't even have supermarkets. These so-called food deserts typically offer mostly standard corner-store fare like Jell-O, Ritz Bitz, or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. So it's strange that Triscuit, another—albeit slightly healthier-tasting Kraft product—is now making a play to be associated with anti-food desert urban gardening projects.
Why does Triscuit care about farming? Simple: marketing. Jim Low, Triscuit's senior director of marketing, tells us that the brand is interested in urban farming because "it connects with what people who love Triscuit care about. We've done a lot of work trying to better understand the values of people who love Triscuit. It's a group of people who want the actions that they take to be reflective of the values that they hold." And apparently, those values include buying and preparing local, fresh food.
The plan is to build 65 community-based farms in 20 U.S. cities in 2011, all located in urban areas. As part of a partnership with local housing agencies (like the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles and the Chicago Housing Authority) and the food nonprofit Urban Farming, five of Triscuit's farms will be placed in low-income housing facilities located in food deserts like the Pittsburgh section of Atlanta, Georgia—an area without access to fresh food, but one that has local community groups who have promised to continue maintenance once Triscuit and Urban Farming leave.
The brand is going all out on this farming push, putting basil and dill-seed packs in 8 million Triscuit boxes and launching a website for urban farmers. "Our mission is to make sure everyone everywhere has the ability to grow and enjoy their own fresh food," says Low. It's hard to begrudge anyone for launching urban farms in food deserts, but one easier way for a brand to make sure people have access to fresh food is to, you know, just sell it to them.