Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where I've Been and Where I'm Going

A sale chart from the entrepreneurial kids at City Blossoms in WDC
Three months ago, I started this project officially. Time has flown by so quickly, I still feel I haven't adequately addressed half the things I've learned. I'm optimistic though that in the end it will accrue to create one (sort-of?) seamless flow that might be useful not just to myself, but others. One thing is for certain, and that is the fact that all the organizations I've visited so far have been amazing in their own right. I've visited places in Boston, Philadelphia and my hometown of Washington, DC so far, and next week, I'm off to Chicago.

A downtown Philly pop-up garden designed to utilize temporarily empty space.
My visits have been centered around observing three main areas of food equity: production of food, distribution of food and education about food. I've also tried to incorporate any businesses that might be involved in creating a larger network of local, sustainable food for a city. Of course, many places overlap in their focus. Here, I group them loosely based on the central premise of their organization.

I welcome suggestions for more visits and stops! Please use this blog, the email, Twitter or Facebook to send them my way!

Visitors tour Common Good City Farm in WDC
Common Good City Farm, LeDroit Park, Washington, DC: Read more about this 1/2 acre urban farm in my Zomppa post or in this blog post. Best take away: The abundant amount of plant life that can grow in a small space on a former elementary school baseball field. Peach trees! Peach trees!
City Blossoms, Shaw Neighborhood, Washington, DC: I just visited with City Blossoms at their Marion Street location this past week and doggone if I didn't leave with the biggest case of the warm and fuzzies. This spot really puts the "community" in community garden. As with Common Good, education about gardening and fresh food is part of the package. The emphasis here is on kids, but all sorts of community members and volunteers participate.

The Food Project, multiple locations, Boston, MA and surrounding areas: Although the Food Project operates several farms in the greater Boston area, their focus is equally split on growing food and growing community. Teaching youth leadership skills is a majority part of this 20-year old organization's goals. They also work to distribute the food they grow to areas of the community in need, often partnering with health organizations, schools, and youth groups to promote healthy eating. You can read a little more about what I've written about them here.
Walnut Hill Community Farm and Philly Rooted, West Philadelphia, PA: There's a lot more to what Nic Esposito has going on then just this farm outside of a Septa station on Market Street. He's also a big proponent of local entrepreneurship and community mobilization. This farm is ingenious not just for its use of space, but for its design, such as a drainage cistern and pipe that slopes down the public transit system's roof. (Yep, they managed to get through all the government red tape for permission to do it!)
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society: Ok, so they're clearly involved in gardens. But, did you know this organization (originally founded in 1827) also runs a prison greenhouse program and a work release "Roots to Re-entry" program? Their training classes to help organizers start community gardens is innovative in that they focus only 1/3 on actual gardening and 2/3 on community mobilization (often the most difficult component of starting a neighborhood garden). The City Harvest program connects gardeners who can grow surplus with food security organizations that might use it.
Greensgrow, Philadelphia, PA: One of the original urban "gardens" in Philadelphia. Also runs a farmer's market, CSA, and nutritional cooking classes. 

The greenhouse at Greensgrow in Philly, PA
I'll be adding to this list in Chicago where I'm scheduled to stop at:
City Farm, Chicago, IL: Not only will I be touring this farm and speaking with a director at the organization (The Resource Center) that runs it, but I'll also be attending their fall Urban Harvest event.
Growing Home, Chicago, IL: Both exploring this farm and speaking with someone to learn more about their programs.
Gary Corner Youth Center Gardens, Chicago, IL: Another scheduled garden stop!

Bread for the City, Shaw and Anacostia neighborhoods, Washington, DC: I've worked with BFC for several of their farmer's markets. They are an immense organization of wrap-around services that do much more than hand-out food. Education is also a big priority here to ensure their clients become self-sufficient and independent as the ultimate goal. You can read some more about them here and here.
Community Servings, Boston, MA: Originally founded as a healthy food delivery service for those suffering from acute illnesses, Community Servings has expanded its offerings to include nutritional cooking classes that utilize fresh produce and farmer's markets whose proceeds help support the non-profit. Both offer provisions that make them accessible to a wide range of incomes.
SHARE, distribution from West Philadelphia to areas of PA, DE, NJ shore, MD shore and metro NY: SHARE acquires food from the USDA's commodity program and supplements it with local farm goods to create weekly "boxes" of groceries that are then sold for a fraction of the retail cost. Federal and state assistance monies as well as cash can be used to purchase a box which is picked up at a local distribution site.
Philabundance, greater Philadelphia, PA: Philabundance grew out of a food bank system, but does much more beyond mere distribution. If you want to hear me turn all gooey and wax philosophic about them, check out this post.  They have a lot going on! And it's all fabulous!

I'll be adding to this list in Chicago where I'm scheduled to take a peek at the:
Fresh Moves Bus, various locations, Chicago, IL: This produce stand on wheels takes reduced price produce into underserved areas of Chicago.

Working in the City Blossoms Marion Street Garden
Haley House, South End, Boston, MA: Haley House has a wide variety of wrap-around services, but several of their growing projects involve food education and training. I recently wrote about them here on the blog. 
Cambridge Community Kitchen, Cambridge, MA: A fledgling business hoping to host both local, nutritional cooking classes for a variety of populations as well as provide a separate kitchen to serve as an incubator for start-up food businesses.
Chefs Move To Schools, nationwide: A component of Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative, this program helps to pair those trained in culinary arts with a local school. Resources and ideas are provided online to help chefs and schools incorporate food education. I was recently paired with Takoma Park Educational Center and am looking forward to starting a food exploration unit there. 

This does not even cover the other local DC organizations I partner with who are interested in nutritional cooking education for their clients.  These places include Even Start, Academy of Hope, Unity Healthcare, and the Latin American Youth Center among other non-for-profits.

Shoppers choose from the fresh produce at FreshFarm Market in WDC

Local Sustainable Food Systems
Crop Circle Kitchen, Jamaica Plains, Boston, MA: A food business incubator that carefully and selectively screens potential businesses to maximize efficiency. In addition, CCK provides detailed guidance on running and growing a business. The founder also runs a distribution hub called OrFoodEx that allows small producers and buyers to link up in a way that minimizes costs.
Boston Local Foods, Boston, MA: A linking organization for local businesses and producers designed to emphasize location, fairness and sustainability in the food system. I'll be attending their Boston Local Foods Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1. 
FreshFarm Markets, Washington, DC area: A non-profit that organizes 11 markets in DC, VA and MD filled with farmers from within a 200-mile radius. Several of their markets accept SNAP and WIC and utilize a program called "Double Dollars" that matches federal funds up to a specified amount. And, of course, there's the awesome FoodPrints kitchen , curriculum and garden at Watkins ES.  I frequently work at their markets doing simple cooking demonstrations with the produce and am looking forward to participating in the Watkins program soon! 
Fair Food Philly, Philadelphia, PA: Fair Food Philly began as a way to connect restaurants with local farms and has grown to include schools, institutions and the public at large. A leader in linking food networks in the city. 

Fair Food Philly's Farmstand at Reading Terminal carefully describes where the food originates and how it is produced

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