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Local Food Economy : For Good

29 Local Food Economy Articles | Page: | Show All

produce perks improve fresh food access for needy county residents

Cuyahoga County residents needing food assistance now have some healthy alternatives thanks to a new program developed by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition.

Twenty farmers markets and two farm stands throughout the county are partaking in the “Double Value Produce Perks” initiative, which offers incentive dollars to customers utilizing the Ohio Direction Card. Produce Perks are tokens given to customers at participating farmers markets who use the card to purchase food. Customers swipe their cards at a central terminal, with the market providing tokens for the transaction in addition to Produce Perks that can be spent on fruits and vegetables. The incentive is a dollar-for-dollar match to every dollar spent (up to $10) using an Ohio Direction Card at the market.

The project addresses healthy food gaps in the region, says Erika Meschkat, program coordinator for community development at Ohio State University Extension-Cuyahoga County, one of the entities making up the local food policy coalition. In creating the program, the coalition has partnered with several Greater Cleveland philanthropies as well as Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit focusing on food access in underserved communities.

"Some people don't feel comfortable using their Ohio Direction Card at a farmers market, or there's a perceived cost barrier," says Meschkat. "The program incentivizes them to have a good experience."

The impact of Produce Perks has grown since its inception in 2010. Last year, 16 farmers markets contributed to over $27,000 in Ohio Direction Card sales with over $18,000 in incentives redeemed to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

"We want 2013 to be even bigger," Meschkat says.

SOURCE: Erika Meschkat
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

market fair a day to teach clevelanders how to make their gardens grow

A one-day crash course in urban gardening is coming to Cleveland later this month thanks to Fresh Fork Market.

The free-to-the-public event will feature a full day of classes and workshops taught by area farmers, with detailed demonstrations on maintenance, harvesting and anything else participants need to know to make their gardens grow. The April 27 fair will be held at Urban Community School in Cleveland.

Connecting people to local foods is just one goal of the day-long event, notes market founder Trevor Clatterbuck. Bringing folks back to good eating in general is part of the mission, too, he maintains.

"We want to show people how their food is produced, where it comes from and the expertise it takes to grow it," says Clatterbuck, a West Virginia native who came to Cleveland in 2004 as a freshman at Case Western Reserve University.

Along with hands-on gardening advice, vendors selling seeds and other supplies will be on hand. While participants learn how to build their urban gardens, kid-friendly activities will keep the little ones busy.  

Fresh Fork Market provides farm-fresh foods to Cleveland-area customers, working with 108 farms within a 75-mile radius of Cleveland. Its tasty wares include organic and/or sustainable fruits and vegetables, pasture raised meat products, farmstead cheeses, and a variety of baked goods.

Clatterbuck views the fair as a way of giving back to the community. What better way to do that than by teaching Clevelanders how to grow their own healthy eats?

"It's a skill they will be able to appreciate," says Clatterbuck.

SOURCE: Trevor Clatterbuck
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

restaurant program teaches culinary arts to area's underprivileged

"Ever dream of running your own restaurant as an executive chef, pastry chef or sommelier?"

That is the question asked by leaders of EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute. Fulfilling that dream would be a challenge for most anyone, but what about a person reentering society after incarceration?

Hoping to provide the answer is Brandon Chrostowski, general manager, sommelier and fromanger at L'Albatros restaurant. He is also founder of EDWINS, a Cleveland nonprofit providing free restaurant training to underprivileged adults. The 26-week program teaches cooking methods, pastry techniques, food pairings, nutrition and other facets that come with the culinary arts.

Ohio's recidivism rate stands at about 30 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Chrostowski, 33, believes these numbers reflect the lack of opportunities available for ex-inmates.

"There's no guidance and no jobs out there," he says. "Our goal is to provide these people with a skill and a solid path."

Students are rotated through every station of a restaurant, providing them with a variety of skills and real-world experience. Over the last two years, the program has assisted about 30 graduates in finding employment as line cooks, dishwashers and servers. Some students have already been promoted from these entry-level positions.

Chrostowski hit his own "rough patch" a decade ago, and was able to go back to school and hone his culinary craft. The restaurateur wants others to have the same opportunity he did. EDWINS' ultimate goal is to open a restaurant staffed entirely by program graduates.

"Everyone deserves a second shot," Chrostowski says. "This is a chance for people to change their lives."
SOURCE: Brandon Chrostowski
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

largest urban greenhouse in the country officially opens in central neighborhood

Cleveland has gained a reputation nationally for its vibrant local food culture. The city's foodie status has gotten quite a bit bigger - literally - thanks to Green City Growers Cooperative, a 3.25-acre greenhouse that celebrated its official opening on Feb. 25.

Size matters at the hydroponic, high-tech greenhouse, which aims to produce three million heads of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs annually to vendors within a 50-mile radius from its location in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood.
"It's the largest food production greenhouse in an urban area in the U.S.," says Mary Donnell, CEO of Green City Growers.

The greenhouse, which is the size of three football fields, grows its healthy wares in nutrient-rich water rather than soil. The year-round venture, overseen by the nonprofit Evergreen Cooperative Corporation, started harvesting crops in January and is already producing about 60,000 heads of lettuce per week. Green City Growers customers include grocery stores and restaurants.

Planting the leafy goods are local residents. The 25 Clevelanders Green City Growers hired to run the operation will become employee-owners of the cooperative business, receiving a living wage and health insurance.

Besides producing those tasty eats, the goal is create jobs and build financial assets for residents of Cleveland's underserved neighborhoods, says Donnell, whose background includes helping to create a hydroponic greenhouse program for The Ohio State University. The project's key partners include the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Foundation, PNC Bank and the National Development Council. 

Cleveland's new greenhouse is an economic development project that could mean better things for an inner-city neighborhood. "It's wonderful that we have this in the heart of the city," Donnell says.
SOURCE: Mary Donnell
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

colorful day of the dead festival brings community to west side neighborhoods

Skull-faced children and adults danced through the streets of the Gordon Square Arts District last Saturday afternoon, followed by tall, cadaverous puppets and altars overflowing with flowers and other remembrances of those who have passed on to the next realm.

There was nothing to be afraid of, however; the macabre and colorful carrying-on was in celebration of the Day of the Dead, a Latin-American holiday that pays joyful homage to lost relatives. El Día de los Muertos is meant to be more reflective than sad or scary, says Hector Castellanos, the event's coordinator and artistic director.  

This year's Cleveland-centric Day of the Dead festival drew a large crowd to the arts district on a chilly fall afternoon. Attendees enjoyed a parade, music, folk art and food truck fare. Castellanos doesn't have attendance figures yet, but the event has drawn between 1,200 and 1,400 people each of the last two years.

"People came from all over the region,"  he says. "There was a lot of energy and passion."

Gordon Square has hosted the Day of the Dead celebration for five years, with the festival marching through Cleveland's East Side the three years before that. While Cleveland's Latino population was well represented last weekend, many non-Latinos came for the festivities as well. There were many hands involved in building floats and making puppets. Area businesses got in on the fun, too, decorating storefronts with skulls and other symbols of the ancient holiday.

"The whole neighborhood got involved," says Castellanos, a native of Guatemala. "It's a powerful event."

Cleveland artist Bruce Buchanan built an altar representing the surrounding West Side neighborhood and the people who once lived there. The shrine is decorated with rows of colorful houses fronted by abstract skeletons, while tiny flags scrawled with the names of deceased former residents are placed on the alter along with offerings of food, flowers and candles.

"We're helping to build the neighborhood now, but these people built the neighborhood in the first place," says Buchanan. "That's something we should respect."

Meanwhile, Castellanos already is planning to make next year's  celebration bigger and better. "It's spiritual and educational, with so much history behind it," he says. "It also brings the community together, and that's one of the most important aspects for me."

SOURCES: Hector Castellanos, Bruce Buchanan
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

'gardens that teach' contest imparts to local students the importance of healthy eating

A school garden is a real, living world, a type of lab that offers teachers a way to embed creativity, collaboration and love for nature into their curriculum, believes Carlton Jackson, a farmer, self-described "food evangelist" and proprietor of Tunnel Vision Hoops, a provider of hoop houses that allow for year-round food production.
The Cleveland-based company is offering Cuyahoga County public school students grades K-8 a chance to win a hoop house for their school. The Gardens that Teach contest, which runs through February, asks students a series of questions about the preparation, construction and maintenance of a theoretical school garden. Answers will be reviewed by a panel of experts from the realms of food policy, botany and community gardening.
The winning school will receive the greenhouse-like hoop house, while the other participants will learn about the benefits of plants, year-round gardening and healthy eating, says Jackson. "We wanted kids to use their math skills," he adds. For example, "how many pounds of tomatoes can they get? What will the do with the food once it's grown?"
Hoop houses provide a high-temperature environment that protects crops from strong winds, cold and frost, allowing fruits and vegetables to grow during gardening's so-called "off-season," Jackson says.
The concept also is in line with the city's Sustainable Cleveland 2019 project, a movement that in part aims to increase the percentage of locally produced food. Mayor Frank Jackson also proclaimed October 24 to be Food Day, a national venture with the overriding objective of "eating real" and promoting healthy diets among the population.
The Gardens That Teach contest is certainly a nourishing exercise for Northeast Ohio's young students, says Jackson.
"There's a wonderment in watching something grow," he says. "If we can kids back to that, it would be a beautiful thing."

SOURCE: Carlton Jackson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

new potluck event to build sense of community around local food

Everyone loves a potluck. They inspire people to bring their A-game and try new, exciting dishes, showcase diverse cultural backgrounds, and spark conversations about where our food comes from.

This Saturday from 4:30-7 p.m., what one might call the mother of all potlucks is taking place at Edgewater Park. The grassroots "Potluck in the Park" aims to bring residents together from across the city to celebrate local food in Cleveland and share a meal together.

"The idea was inspired when a group of us went to Detroit and learned about their potlucks," says Lilah Zautner, Sustainability Manager for Neighborhood Progress Incorporated and a lead organizer of the event. "They get 200-plus people at their potlucks, a big spectrum of folks. You'll find super-delicious homemade quinoa next to a bucket of KFC fried chicken. Everything goes on the table and everyone eats."

Although the primary purpose of the event is to build a sense of community around local food, the potluck will also celebrate the city's Year of Local Food. Zautner says the effort, led by Sustainable Cleveland 2019, has been a success.

"New farms are coming online literally every week, the strength and number of farmers markets are growing, and we're getting lots of press," she says. "The quality, size and sophistication of these food-based businesses are growing."

Helping urban farmers in Cleveland grow to the next level was also a big topic of discussion at a Cleveland Connects event hosted last week by ideastream and The Plain Dealer. It raised the question, "Can distinctive restaurants, food-related businesses and urban farms nourish the rebirth of Cleveland's neighborhoods?"

"We want to use microenterprise programs to help bring farmers to scale and create value-added products," responded Colleen Gilson, Executive Director of Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition (CNDC). "These products will allow farmers to sell their products for more money and create more jobs."

"People have innovation and drive but not the facilities," Gilson added. "The growth of commercial kitchens would really help to spur more development."

"The sky is the limit," said David O'Neil with the Project for Public Spaces. "Cleveland, you have enormous potential to grow your local food system."

The Potluck in the Park is open to anyone; bring a dish to share and, of course, local food is encouraged. Guests can register in advance on the Eventbrite page.

Source: Lilah Zautner, Colleen Gilson, David O'Neil

international public markets conference offers lessons for success for west side market

The West Side Market is celebrating its Centennial year, prompting much discussion of the institution's past, present and future. Among other things, city leaders are discussing how best to ensure that the market remains successful for another 100 years.

Last week, however, the best ideas seemed to come not from local leaders but from others in Detroit, Santa Monica and Hong Kong as 250 market leaders from around the world attended the three-day International Public Markets Conference in Cleveland.

"The roots of our market are in local farmers selling their produce during the growing season," said Dan Carmody, Manager of Detroit's Eastern Market, during a panel discussion on the role of markets in the future of cities. "When I started there, it was a place where wholesale grocers dumped their product at the end of the week. Now we're trying to envision it as a revitalized local food system."

Eastern Market now sells locally-grown produce raised by urban farmers in Detroit, unlike the West Side Market, which only has a handful of vendors selling local produce.

Santa Monica's public market also was held up as an example. It offers valet parking for bicycles, works with a nearby cooking school to do demonstrations, and hosts "Meatless Mondays" to educate people about how to cook vegetarian.

And if you're looking for fresh, you can't get much more so than Hong Kong's Tai Yuen Market, which has fish swimming in tanks and live chickens. (The market recently installed a state-of-the-art ventilation system to deal with the offending odors.)

Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, who touted his experience working in his uncle's butcher shop as a young man, said that change is coming to the market.

"People at the West Side Market are looking too much at last year's calendar," said Cimperman to the audience. "It won't survive unless they look at tomorrow."

Among the changes that have been recommended at the market are adding more local foods, creating more convenient hours and charging for parking. There is a proposal for a parking fee, but city leaders are still negotiating with vendors.

Cimperman vowed to continue the fight for change. "The city's lease with vendors runs out in 2014,"he said. "It's time to look at the market for the next 100 years."

Source: Joe Cimperman, International Public Markets conference
Writer: Lee Chilcote

community kitchen, fresh-foods cafe and mobile market to serve kinsman neighborhood

Tim Tramble of Burton Bell Carr Development Inc. tried for years to recruit a healthy eatery to the Kinsman neighborhood of Cleveland. When he found an entrepreneur willing to open a Subway here, however, the corporate chain nixed the idea.

The area, which has been dubbed "The Forgotten Triangle" because of the poverty and lack of opportunity rooted here, is a food desert that does not have a grocery store within a one-mile radius. That is a problem for the area's residents, many of whom don't have their own cars.

Faced with this problem, however, Tramble and his coworkers and board decided to open a community kitchen, healthy restaurant and community space. The $1.3 million project, which aims to create access to fresh foods, encourage healthy eating and support community market gardeners, opens later this month.

"This is a really low income neighborhood without much access to personal transportation, and people have to lug groceries and common things we take for granted," says Tramble of the project, which is called the Bridgeport Cafe. "They constantly shop for just two or three days at a time."

The community kitchen contains spacious, restaurant-style food preparation space that will allow neighborhood farmers to prepare their own foods for sale.

Tramble also plans to launch a Mobile Market, a specially built truck converted to an indoor market. Patrons can enter the truck, which will make stops throughout the neighborhood, pick out produce from two aisles, pay for it and exit the truck.

Source: Tim Tramble
Writer: Lee Chilcote

innovative program helps neighborhoods fight foreclosure and blight

An innovative software program developed by the Center for Urban Poverty at Case Western Reserve University is helping Cleveland neighborhood development practitioners reinvent their urban communities in strategic, data-driven ways.

NEO CANDO, a publicly accessible database, provides one-stop-shopping for anyone looking to research property information in their neighborhood. The site allows users to go beyond researching individual properties and look at snapshots of neighborhoods -- including which properties are at risk of foreclosure and which have been condemned. The site also contains social, economic and census data.

"In the past, information was collected from multiple websites, and by the time it was assembled, it was out of date," says Mike Schramm, a Research Associate in the Center on Urban Poverty in the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at CWRU. "We bring data together across domains. Our mission is to democratize data and to create data-driven decisions by both nonprofits and government."

In practice, NEO CANDO is used by foreclosure prevention agencies to research which properties are in danger of going into foreclosure. Armed with this info, grassroots groups can knock on the owner's door and attempt to intervene, thus hopefully preventing another vacant, bank-owned home in the neighborhood.

The information is also used to focus on areas with strategic assets in an effort to better protect them. "You need to know that the house across street from that recently rehabbed home is in foreclosure -- and then do something about it."

Projects like NEO CANDO are helping to facilitate a shift within the community development field towards creating more strategic, placemaking investments.

Source: Mike Schramm
Writer: Lee Chilcote

thrive to host happiness-inducing events aimed at engaging city's residents

Thrive Cleveland, a new grassroots "happiness incubator," wants to amaze you. The goal is to provide experiences that are "surprising," "boundary expanding" and "beyond your comfort zone," according to cofounder Scott Simon.

"What we’re doing is creating what you could call a happiness gym," says Simon. "It will be a series of ongoing, curated experiences for Clevelanders. We want to get them to meet other people, be creative and hear from the best and brightest in Cleveland."

The group is composed of 13 Clevelanders who are volunteering their time to create happiness-inducing events aimed at engaging the city's residents.

The first experience, entitled "WTF? (What's That Food?) -- A Local Farm-to-Table Exploration," will take place on Saturday, August 25th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants will meet at Cafe Benice and then travel as a group to the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Farmers Market, where they'll meet with farmers, taste just-picked produce, and learn how fresh food contributes to happiness and well-being. Afterwards, the group will return to Cafe Benice to participate in a hands-on cooking experience utilyzing the farm-fresh foods. 

According to Simon, the event is part of a national movement towards fostering greater happiness in cities across the country. He cites the Happiness Institute in San Francisco and Life Labs NYC in Brooklyn as two comparable organizations.

Source: Scott Simon
Writer: Lee Chilcote

300-plus young pros donate 1,200 hours of service to area urban gardens

On Thursday, July 18th, more than 300 volunteers rolled up their shirtsleeves and got their hands dirty during the recent "Summer of Service" event hosted by Business Volunteers Unlimited. The event engaged young professionals in maintaining urban farms and gardens to support the regional food economy.

Some of the projects included constructing hoop houses and helping to maintain a .4-acre forest garden at Community Greenhouse Partners; working as an "urban farm hand for a day" in Detroit Shoreway by building garden beds and fencing; harvesting blueberries for the Cuyahoga Valley Farmers Market; and building a community garden at the Free Clinic. 

“Forty five of our interns volunteered at Schady Road Farm in Olmsted Township for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities,” said Lisa Johnson, Corporate Responsibility Manager with Hyland Software, in a news release. “BVU’s ‘Done in a Day’ program is a great example of how our employees get out there and flex their muscles to help our community. They love it.”

“BVU works with employers year-round to engage their employees in meaningful volunteer service,” added Brian Broadbent, BVU’s president and CEO. “Our annual Summer of Service event is specifically targeted as an opportunity for employers to connect their interns and young professionals to community service.”

The tally at the end of a long day of volunteering was quite impressive: A collective 1,200 hours of service valued at more than $26,000, says BVU.

Source: Business Volunteers Unlimited
Writer: Lee Chilcote

now in its seventh year, tremont farmers market continues to grow

The Tremont Farmers Market, which takes place on Tuesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. in Lincoln Park, has quietly grown into one of the largest in Cleveland, attracting more than 1,500 people on a recent Tuesday.

"People come from all over," says Jim Votava of the Tremont West Development Corporation, who organizes the weekly market. "We've tried to create a weekly destination event that embraces good food."

This season, the market's lineup has included demonstrations from local chefs, an art yard sponsored by the annual Tremont Trek benefit, live music and booths from local businesses. The addition of more prepared foods is also a change. Presenting sponsor MetroHealth provides information on healthy living.

Modeled after the North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square, Votava says the market demonstrates growing consumer interest in local, sustainable foods.

The Tremont Farmers Market runs all summer long and continues into the fall. During the winter, the market takes a holiday break and then continues at Holy Ghost Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Church and Cultural Center on West 14th.

Source: Jim Votava
Writer: Lee Chilcote
Photo: Peggy Turbett, The Plain Dealer

cleveland foundation president touts civic innovation at annual meeting

Before a packed house at Severance Hall, Cleveland Foundation President Ronn Richard touted the city's accomplishments in becoming a hub of innovation and taking bold steps to address big problems at the foundation's annual meeting this Tuesday.

Waxing poetic on the gilded stage for a moment, Richard harkened back to the foundation's early days in the 1910's as a time of tremendous innovation in Cleveland. "I still wonder if the past might be prologue," he mused, noting that the foundation's centennial is just two years away. "Can we envision the spirit of a second renaissance in Cleveland?"

Richard also posed a challenge to civic leaders to remain focused on true economic development and social change within the city. "Physical development, as wonderful as it is, must be coupled with investment in people and placemaking," he said, noting that the building spree of the 1990s was too focused on bricks and mortar projects. "We need to invest in connecting communities."

Among the foundation's projects, Richard touted the Cleveland schools plan that recently passed the state legislature, ongoing investments in high quality urban education, economic development programs such as the HealthTech Corridor and the Evergreen Cooperatives, and programs to connect new audiences to the arts.

Richard also told the audience that later this year the Cleveland Foundation will unveil a new microlending program for entrepreneurs seeking loans under $50,000 to help spur job creation and assist the creation of startups.

Source: Ronn Richard
Writer: Lee Chilcote

cleveland carbon fund awards grants to expand backyard composting, other green projects

The Cleveland Carbon Fund has announced three grant awards totaling $15,000 for 2012, including an ambitious effort to increase the number of bike commuters in Cleveland, a backyard composting initiative in Tremont, and a project to make homes in the Central neighborhood more energy-efficient.

Bike Cleveland's project, Creating a Mode Shift, will provide riders with the tools, tips and advice on how to commute to work in Cleveland. The effort includes a commuter challenge in which individuals and teams can compete and win prizes, a guide to navigating bike commuting, and outreach to employers to help incentivize more employees to ride to work.

Tremont West Development Corporation will initiate a Residential Composting Program that will distribute bins to local residents, encourage participants to reduce their waste, and track how much is saved from landfills. The program is offered in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District.

Burton Bell Carr Development Corporation's project, Heritage View Model Block Sustainability Program, will make homes in the Central neighborhood more energy-efficient by switching out incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs, adding sink aerators, and installing low-flow shower heads.

The Cleveland Carbon Fund was created in 2009 by the City of Cleveland, Green City Blue Lake Institute at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Gund Foundation, Cleveland Foundation and Cleveland Clinic. Its goal, as Carbon Fund Fellow Joanne Neugebauer puts it, is to "think globally, green locally." The Carbon Fund is the first community-based, open-access fund in the U.S.

Source: Joanne Neugebauer
Writer: Lee Chilcote
29 Local Food Economy Articles | Page: | Show All
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