Food Security deals with many aspects (land use; availability, accessibility, and affordability of healthy foods) that affect the public health of a community and its residents. At Urban GreenWorks, we look to engage residents by showing them the value to and impact of LAND & FOOD on their community and individual health. We look to create sustainable solutions that can engage and mobilize residents to make an impact in their community, no matter how small. We cut through the red tape , so that residents don't have to.
When discussing the idea of food security, or rather insecurity, the concept of food justice must be discussed. Food Justice is the act of communities exercising their right to buy, grow, sell, and eat healthy food. It started in response to food insecurity and economic pressures that prevent access to quality, affordable foods. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals that inhabit it.
Food justice demands recognition of human rights, equal opportunity, and fair treatment. People practicing food justice lead to strong local food systems, self-reliant communities, and a healthy environment. Food Justice looks to address the issue of food insecurity by advocating for and creating sustainable community food systems based on food equity.
Food Equity is the concept that all people have the right, ability, and opportunity to grow and to consume healthy, accessible, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods. It requires that food systems be democratically controlled and community stakeholder determine the policies that influences their food.
So what exactly is a food system? A Food System includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population: growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food and food related items. It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each of these steps. A Sustainable Community Food System is a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic and social health of a community.
UGW's goal is to create a collaborative community food network that empowers a diverse group of like-minded community partners, local government, and individuals to work towards a holistic and sustainable approach to food insecurity.
Urban Farming, Farmers Markets, Farm Stands, CSA, Legislative Change, etc.
As seen by the above heading, UGW's approach to community food security is multi-dimensional. It begins with community engagement and and educational awareness of the issues at hand and how these issue affect individual and community health. There is a community needs assessment because we too must understand the history, needs and ideas of the community we serve. Health Impact Assessments ( HIAs) are also very important because they look at the affect that proposed solutions can have on community health. But rarely are they administered when making community decisions, be it to cost, inexperience, or negligence. UGW uses national benchmarks when assessing the health impact of our projects on the communities we serve, as an offset to the lack of an actual HIA.
Strategic community collaboration building is vital to true community food security efforts. This includes local government support, community based-organizations (CBOs), local businesses, and residents. No one organization can address this problem alone. By working together we have the ability to strengthen each others' weaknesses and build strong community bonds that have focus, purpose, and direction.
Programming is community-based, regionally & "culturally appropriate", shovel-ready, and economically sustainable. Most, if not all, community development requires an infusion of capital to successfully initiate core concepts and community buy-in. UGW just believes that while we need financial support, we should not be dependent on it. So we design our programs with the capacity for economic sustainability when implemented correctly.
While UGW has the ability to implement all community-based programming that we create, we feel that it more socially responsible if we train community residents (especially those who are marginalized) to implement these proposed solutions for themselves. This creates greater community engagement and involvement in the decision-making process of community (re)development and change, rather that simple being a part of the change.
In the future, UGW would like to see an invested local food community that truly represents and supports the diversity that is south Florida, with an active and effective food policy council, food hub, and farmers market coalition.
Food For Thought (School Garden Program & Curriculum)
Three years ago, UGW and Barry University's Center for Community Involvement (CCSI) partnered on the Barry Fair Share, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project that provided locally sourced organic produce on campus (to staff, students, & faculty) and to low-income residents in Liberty City. It eventually expanded to include a similar program at St. Thomas University, as well as service throughout the City of Miami.
Starting in the Summer of 2018, both parties again will partner to design and build an on-campus community garden with an accompanying in-season, farm stand.
Team Gardens: Athletes Teaching Health Education By Gardening
This is the story of Vincent Smith and two friends, who played football for the University of Michigan. They are from a small rural Florida town called Pahokee, known for its cane crop and rich black soil, called "muck". The residents lack access to fresh fruits & vegetables, and there are no grocery stores in town.
After discovering that Pahokee was once"The Winter Vegetable Capital of the World", Vince and his friends decided that they wanted to give back to their community in a meaningful way. Their #EATING project, made possible by fans and alumni of the University of Michigan, started in 2012 with the goal of planting a community garden in their hometown.
To help their community make healthier choices, they worked with Roger Horne of Urban GreenWorks to design, build and maintain the community garden.
Together with community members, they transformed an empty lot into a fruit, vegetable, and herb green space for members of their community. They are growing fruits such as mangoes, guavas, berries, citrus, and starfruit as well as other veggies. They also teaching young people in Pahokee about health eating and proper nutrition, while helping to keep them out of trouble i.e., youth that have court ordered hours are working to maintain the garden throughout the growing season.