One of the biggest issues we talk about with teenagers in the JYM when serving in inner cities or even more so, on Native American Reservations, is the concept of food deserts. Sometimes on the reservations we go to, the closest grocery store of any kind is 120-180 miles away and all they have is a chevron like gas station with snack food on the reservation A huge issue on reservations is obesity …and it’s obvious why, when all they have access to is processed junk and convenience foods. Something I was so encouraged by was for the first time, in South Dakota on the poorest reservation in the country in Pine Ridge, they were just starting community gardens and education programs all over the city in every school (they had secured a grant that helped make that the case). The project I worked on was building garden beds and a large garden shed for the tools for the elementary kids to learn how to work on their new “farm”. Anyway, our JYM students who were assigned that project with me kind of felt like they weren’t make a big difference compared to the other students who were re-roofing a house or building a handicap ramp etc….BUT IT WAS SUCH HUGE IMPORTANT WORK that was starting from the ground up on this reservation and it was so cool to watch it begin. Anyway, education about food deserts and teaching community gardening, healthy non-processed food eating, shopping at local stores etc. is one of the keys out of poverty and also into preventative health. So…all that to say…this idea of locally owned, collaboratively led, local food purchasing, hiring teens and elderly, community building and a safe place to hang out (not at a bar or abandoned building) and a bunch of the other intended purposes of your store in your hometown would be an excellent model and business plan for so many Native American reservations all over the country….which also starts me dreaming about how to help the mission organization Next Step Ministry begin to do that with the people they already have relationships with, serve and partner with all summer….praying about all this!