Meet the Neighborhood Leaders Fighting For Food Justice  - ioby

Meet the Neighborhood Leaders Fighting For Food Justice  – ioby

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From windowsill gardens in New York City to community juice pop-ups in Cleveland, these activists are planting the seeds for a different world.  Food justice leaders work to ensure universal  access to nutritious, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food. These leaders are transforming their neighborhoods through food justice projects.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly fifteen percent of households—and eighteen percent of households with children—reported experiencing food insecurity. This means they consistently lacked access to enough food, both in quality and quantity, to satisfy their needs. However, this experience was not distributed evenly: people of color and LGBTQ+ people reported experiencing food insecurity at significantly higher rates than their white and straight peers. For activists around the country, this is ongoing proof of the need for food justice, or the total transformation of our current food system. 

Food justice is a movement that “works to ensure universal access to nutritious, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food for all, while advocating for the well-being and safety of those involved in the food production process.” Food Justice, deeply related to environmental and racial justice, asks the key question: How can we create a food system that heals people and the planet?

Across the country, neighborhood leaders are working to answer this question every day. Through food-justice oriented projects, such as gardens or community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes, they are creating neighborhoods that are fertile ground for justice. Below, we outline some of our favorite food justice projects that have been crowdfunded on ioby, which we hope will provide inspiration for action in your city or town. Something as small as planting a seed today can ripple out, creating conditions of lushness and possibility for generations to come. 

WHIN Food Council hosts regular education programs to teach all neighbors about growing food.

Danielle Bagley, WHIN Food Council

Danielle is the Co-Fundraising Coordinator for the WHIN (Washington Heights and Inwood) Food Council. The organization works to encourage sustainable food systems and healthy food consumption in the two Uptown Manhattan neighborhoods. While their focus is local, their goal is global: through inventive, everyday actions, they serve as a catalyst of food systems change while raising the next generation of local leaders.

The organization does this through three key tools: scholarships, a farm share, and a “grow from home” program. The WHIN scholarships provide $500 to any local resident “interested in pursuing formal training or certification related to urban gardening, farming, or anything to do with growing food!” This helps connect Inwood and Washington Heights residents with major organizations, such as the New York Botanical Gardens, so that community members have the tools they need to create thriving gardens. They utilize crowdfunding to provide these stipends to interested neighbors. 

Their final project is Grow From Home, which puts food gardens on the windowsills (yes, you read that right!) of New Yorkers. This program provides families with the seeds, supplies, and knowledge they need to create thriving mini-farms in their apartment, including lettuce, mushrooms, and tomatoes. The WHIN Team is quick to emphasize that growing food at home, no matter your square footage, is a lot simpler than you might think. 

SWAG Project is an established urban farming, educational and community-building program

Alexandra, SWAG Project, Newark, NJ

The SWAG project is as fun as it sounds. Based in the South Ward neighborhood of Newark, SWAG is an urban farming, educational, and community-building program. In a single season, they grew over 3,500 pounds of organic fruit and vegetables. SWAG also partners with local schools, churches, and local community centers to distribute this produce to neighbors, often free of charge. 

In addition to their seasonal growing work, SWAG’s core program is a sustainability internship program for high school and college students. During the program, interns have an opportunity to learn about the food system in Newark — and become a part of the change they’d like to see to provide more abundant fresh produce. In addition to farming training, the interns also receive a work stipend that covers transportation, daily meals, and their time in the garden. 

However, the benefits created on the farm during the internship often extend far beyond the paycheck or the spring spent growing food. As Alexandra  writes “people in communities that jointly care for their land and their food create common bonds and form strong networks that extend beyond the farm.”  That’s something we can all grow toward. 

Ujima Fresh Juices was a pop-up juice event designed to promote healthy eating & community fellowship.

Bianca B, Ujima Fresh Juices, Cleveland, OH

If you think of fresh pressed juice, you might think of celebrities in Los Angeles spending $15 on a drink. But Bianca, an activist, organizer, and nutritionist in Cleveland, is trying to disrupt that stereotype with Ujima Fresh Juices. Through refreshing blends of ginger, kale, spinach, pasley, and banana, Bianca not only brings nutritionally rich juices to her community — she teaches them how to make them.  However, in their own words, “it’s about more than selling juice, the juice is just the start. It’s about nourishing bodies and refreshing communities, starting in Greater Buckeye,” a neighborhood in Cleveland. 

In addition to cultivating practical, health-oriented skills, Ujima Fresh Juices aims to educate and draw attention to the lack of grocery stores with affordable fresh produce in the neighborhood. By being a “first responder” to this crisis with juices, smoothies, and salads, they provide practical  solutions for increasing long term resident vitality, health, and wellbeing. 

Neighbors gather for the groundbreaking of Georgia’s first AgriHOOD

Danny G, AgriHOOD, Macon, Georgia

On the Southside of Macon, Georgia, a transformation is unfolding. Danny G. and his team have created Georgia’s first-ever Agrihood — a hub for community agriculture, mixed use development, and community engagement in the center of the city. 

They have done this by transforming 12 blighted parcels into 5 acres of fresh farmland, where they will grow fruits and vegetables. Like many disinvested cities across the United States, the Southside of Macon has fewer than three grocery stores, which makes finding fresh, affordable food extraordinarily difficult. The Agrihood hopes to fill this gap  in a sustainable way — without shipping food across state lines, using pesticides, or exploitative labor practices. 

In addition to the five-acre-farm, the Agrihood will host a community kitchen, where community members can learn to cook with local ingredients in healthy, satisfying ways. This is especially important for unhoused community members, who may not have a space to prepare the food that is grown. It is also an essential community function: the only thing better than growing food together is eating it! 

If you feel inspired to enact a food justice project in your own neighborhood, there are endless routes you can take. Whether you want to take a page out of WHIN Food Council’s Book and grow vegetables on your window-sill, or go bigger by fundraising for an Agrihood, there are as many ways to promote food justice as there are people in your community. 

Additional Resources

  1. Allied Media Projects “Recipes for Radical Hospitality” is a digital magazine offering recipes and reflections on feeding resistance and self-determination. The collection focuses on organizations striving for food justice, both as people and movements. 
  1. This guide from FoodPrint explores the historical background of food justice, and the systemic factors that have weaponized land and food against communities of color.
  2. This comprehensive list of organizations fighting for food justice in their communities can help provide context, insight, and inspiration into creating food justice projects in your own neighborhood!

ioby is a national crowdfunding nonprofit, but we’re much more than that. We help connect leaders (like you!) with one-on-one coaching and support to raise the money they need from their communities to make our neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable, and more fun.

Have a great idea to get good done in your neighborhood? We want to help! Share your idea with us and we can help get you started.

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