Realizing our food system is made up of many smaller and often isolated working parts that vary by location, it often makes sense to begin our work at the neighborhood level. In order to understand a community’s place within the broader food system, an inventory of assets and barriers should be identified related to food security. The Coalition strives to view opportunities for economic development through the lens of the community. What are the job and business strengths of the food system? What economic opportunities does the food system offer? How can policies be put forth or enhanced, to enable community members to address food security issues themselves? How can the chronic lack of food in some areas become a catalyst for revitalization, hope, and celebration as new methods of food production and acquisition are embraced?
Access the comprehensive policy brief prepared by FPC about the state of healthy food access in Greater Cleveland and opportunities to improve it.
What is a “Community Food Assessment”?
FPC utilizes community food assessments to help us better understand the nature of food insecurity in particular neighborhoods. These assessments can take many forms depending on where the community is at in their work to address health and food access before the FPC is engaged. For example, our studies have reviewed such topics as: food production, transportation and access, cost, types of food, seasonal availability, availability changes in different neighborhoods, socio-economic impediments, opportunity for economic and community development, and the overall picture of community food system security in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. The goal of Community Food Assessment is to assemble information related to the local food system and make policy recommendations and raise public awareness based on that information.
Regional Local Food Business Assessments & Plans
In 2010, the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan began when FPC and partner organizations selected a national consultant team to assess the state of NEO’s food system and make specific recommendations for how to “re-localize” it to a significant extent in the coming years. The consultant team considered the full-value cycle of healthy regional food systems by evaluating things in terms of: agricultural production, supply chain infrastructure, markets, capacity building, and secondary businesses.
Assessing Food Access in Greater Cleveland
The first major project faciliated by the Community Food Assessment Working Group was to work with the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission to assess the state of food access across Cuyahoga County. One of the major findings of the report was that fast food is on average 4.5 times as readily available as a full-service grocery store.
In the summer of 2009, Jenita McGowan and the Community Food Assessment Working Group facilitated “community conversations” about access to healthy food in four Cleveland neighborhoods: Central, Glenville, Ohio City, and Slavic Village. The work was done on behalf of the Coalition as part of her participation in the Cleveland Executive Fellowship program. The final report has since been used to inform the policy and programming of the Coalition.
In the summer of 2010, Coalition interns Simone Jelks and Todd Alexander sought to expand the scope of Community Conversations and held focus groups in seven Greater Cleveland neighborhoods, including: Hough, Euclid, Union-Miles, Kamms Corners, Clark-Fulton, Cudell, and Warrensville Heights.
Partnering with the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Greater Cleveland in the Central neighborhood under the auspice of a HEAL (Healthy Eating / Active Living) initiative, FPC engaged several resident advocates to administer a food access and transportation survey in 2012. Results were aggregated with the intention to share them with Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority in 2013 in order to implement recommendations from the study.
Informing Health Policy
In October 2008, the the Community Food Assessment Working Group created the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Charter. Here’s the City Record that includes all three pieces as they were introduced, including the food charter on page 8. The Charter was presented to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and County Commissioners Dimora, Hagan, and Lawson-Jones. Eventually the Charter was passed by City Council as a resolution, which shows the city’s commitment to good food being available for all its citizens.