September 8, 2022
The following story appeared in the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland's 2021 annual report: 25 Years of Partnership and Authenticity.
Residents in Power: Expanding Food Access in Central-Kinsman
Food insecurity is an issue that impacts many Cuyahoga County residents. The problem is even more acute in the Central and Kinsman neighborhoods of Cleveland. On a county level, social service agencies noted that food access, insufficiency, daily hunger, and healthy food options are issues that many residents are grappling with. In the Cuyahoga County Community Health Needs Assessment conducted in 2019, 18.9 percent of surveyed Cuyahoga County adults worried about whether their food would run out before they had money to buy more. Also, 16.2 percent of Cuyahoga County adults reported running out of food and not having money to buy more.
Since 1980, Environmental Health Watch (EHW)
has engaged and convened concerned citizens and representatives regarding evolving environmental justice issues, including many of the social determinants of health, like food access. According to Kimberly Foreman, executive director of EHW, there is consensus among core partners that black people have lost much of the control over their financial and economic lives; wealth has diminished, and black ownership has diminished.
"Holistic neighborhood change will not be achieved without addressing a diversity of issues like lack of access to health care, quality education and nutrition," said Adrienne Mundorf, vice president, programs and strategy at SOCF Cleveland. "These communities are increasingly marginalized to the point that they are not able to participate in or benefit from the economic landscape of the city."
These disparities are exacerbated by COVID-19 and deeply rooted in structural racism, reinforcing inequity across our community.
To address some of these feelings in the Central neighborhood, EHW has partnered with FARE (Food Access Raises Everyone)
to work directly with community residents affected by the social determinants of health,
including food insecurity, healthy food access and health promotion. These organizations center the voices and expertise of the main community stakeholders: residents.
In 2021, FARE and EHW continued work to connect partners and community members in Central-Kinsman who are passionate about their community and have a desire to create new opportunities for a better quality of life.
This gave space and trust to resident leaders, who established the Central-Kinsman Community Collective and the Central-Kinsman Food Cooperative Steering Committee.
As residents grow their capacity and stakes in neighborhood change, they provide for both economic and food needs, while also expanding market access for small-scale local farmers and producers of color. This work is focused on economic power, teaching skills of self-sufficiency and providing the tools necessary for residents to co-create the community they envision. We see this across the communities in which we invest: residents stay engaged and involved for much longer when they recognize their own power, community events like Fresh Fest keep growing (with 10,000 annual attendees targeted for the next three years), and over $250,000 in national funding has been awarded for the food cooperative planning over the last three years.
Resident-led work and community engagement is an iterative, longterm process, yet one that will lead to an increased representation of people of color and leadership in the local food movement, a reduction in health disparities and an increase in community access to healthy food in Cleveland.