Orange County

Carrboro’s ‘Summer Streets’ not just child’s play

Beyond the fun and music at the town of Carrboro’s Summer Streets event Sunday morning, organizers shared free watermelon and a deeper mission of healthy, local food for everyone.

A growing number of small, local farms “are producing more food than is being distributed within the county, but yet (residents are) still facing hunger issues,” said Ashley Heger, coordinator for the Orange County Food Council.

“In the more urban pockets of the county, like here in Chapel Hill (and Carrboro), there are traditional food access issues: food deserts, how expensive food is, and transportation routes,” Heger said. “There are numerous factors that feed into that.”

Roughly 14 percent of Orange County’s population was identified as “food insecure,” or lacking access to sufficient amounts of healthy food, in a 2013 report from the Southeastern University Consortium on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition. The report noted 18 percent of Durham County’s population was food insecure.

The council, now in its second year, is looking at resources and agencies already addressing hunger and food deserts – defined as low-income areas located more than a mile from healthy and affordable food. The long-term goal is a system of sustainable agriculture providing better access to healthy food, she said.

The council is one of three local nonprofit groups co-sponsoring this year’s Summer Streets series on Weaver Street, said Annette Lafferty, the town’s economic and community development director. The series, which started in 2015, blocks off traffic so people can play in the street.

Orange Literacy hosted the free event in June; El Centro Hispano will bring its Latin American Festival to West Weaver Street on Aug. 27.

This Sunday began with yoga from guest teacher Tina Craven, who led a small group of early risers through gentle stretches and relaxing poses. Nearby, others set up a misting tent and unpacked bubble wands, water blasters and sidewalk chalk.

Southern Village resident Cora Whitaker heard the chalk hit the pavement and ran.

“Daddy! Look!” the toddler yelled, a big smile crossing her chubby cheeks. Parents Kyle and Erinn Whitaker followed close behind.

They often enjoy visiting Weaver Street Market, where they can sit outside under the trees, Kyle Whitaker said. Summer Streets was a happy surprise, he said, because they’re always a bit wary of letting Cora run on the Weaver Street lawn with traffic so near.

“It’s great, because they always want to explore when they’re out here anyways, so feeling a little bit safer as a parent I think is very nice, and having some activities as well is great for the kids,” he said, as Cora wriggled out of her summer dress and leaped into a sprinkler’s cold mist.

Apple Jack, a pit-Labrador mix, steered clear of the water, but led his foster mom down the street, meeting new friends along the way. The gentle but energetic 2-year-old dog is looking for a forever family, said Julie Foster, a foster mom with Durham’s Independent Animal Rescue.

“He’s very energetic, and when he meets everybody, and every dog, he’s super enthusiastic,” she said. “He’s very sweet. Actually, we say that he’s part sloth, because I work from home and he lays on the bed all day. He doesn’t care; he’s just very chill.”

More children – and bigger “kids” – zeroed in on the water as the sun rose, filling the air with squeals and soap bubbles. Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade rode his bike into the spray as he arrived for “office hours” with fellow Alderman Damon Seils.

“I should have popped a wheelie over it,” Slade said, grinning as he passed.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb