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Linking Diverse Communities Through Healthy Food: Metropolitan Areas

Concepts to consider as part of structuring a program to work with diverse cultures. Two practical illustrative examples of good program design.

May 20, 2010: Linking Diverse Communities Through Healthy Food: Examples from Metropolitan Areas 


How can an organization most effectively find long term success when working with diverse communities?

This webinar brings together several presenters who care passionately about both good food and working with diverse cultures. They share how they have found success in different projects, with a focus on illustrating general best practices by using specific examples.You'll hear practical advice from these dynamic thought and action leaders.

Presentations from Karen Washington and Owen Taylor from Just Food, Diana Copeland from the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, and Kolu Zigbi from the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation.

This webinar was brought to you in collaboration with the Community Food Security Coalition.

Archived Webinar

[Editor's note: We believe that this webinar's message is clearest placing Kolu's presentation first, though when originally broadcast, Kolu was the last presenter. The video below is edited, placing Kolu first. If you would like to view the original, unedited version, please visit ]


Presenter Slides

Written Questions and Answers

Q: How did you get community buy-in?  Did [the groups that Just Food woks with] propose the gardens or did you go door to door and present the idea?
JustFood: Just Food does not start community gardens, the communities we work with have started them. We work to build the capacity of community groups to do the work they are already doing. In terms of getting community buy-in to start City Farms Markets and City Chicken Projects, we do workshops for community gardeners about markets and chickens. These workshops are led by community gardeners who are already running markets and keeping chickens. This sparks an interest in many people. For chickens, I often encourage gardeners who I work with in other capacities to consider it, and also give them an idea of the extreme community commitment it would take. This sometimes takes many years to take root. A Bronx gardener who has been thinking of starting a project for about 3 years now, has finally found several caretakers and has applied for our program. It takes time! We plant seeds of ideas, and when groups are ready and committed, we move forward with working with them. By ""we"", I mean our staff and our garden partners.
Many community residents in NYC are able to find city owned or privately owned vacant lots. If it is privately owned, you have to get permission from the landowner, if it is city owned you need at least 10 members, obtain a license from Greenthumb a city agency. The first question you must ask: is it a vacant lot that the community wants as a garden? This is important if you want it to succeed as a community garden. If you have support of your community, businesses, and schools you will be highly successful. Good Luck

Q: How can urban food co-ops collaborate with your efforts to connect communities to their food system?  Food co-ops organize the surrounding rural community into a marketplace.  Urban food co-ops are centers for urban communities to connect to the local food system.  Food co-ops and Good Food Network have similar interesting in connecting people to food systems.  How can we partner?
Diana Copeland: I would love to talk.  This is part of the larger food security vision that is under development - but we need help.

Marty Gerencer - NGFN: Thanks for your question and your interest in partnering with the NGFN.  We would need to learn more about particular (co-ops) you are referencing; the communities and populations they serve, the geography and region of the country, products and overall mission.  Then we can discuss with NGFN regional leads and advisors that work with co-ops of the type we are referencing and identify specific partnership roles.  For example; the NGFN is often asked to assist in providing connection to people and models in the form of technical assistance to address barriers and to help move forward the work in the community.  We have also been called upon to consider working groups, a regional and/or national food co-op working group may be in your interest area.  I would be happy to discuss this more and bring appropriate advisors on the call with us as appropriate.  You can reach me at  Thanks again, Marty Gerencer, NGFN Manager for the Wallace Center.

Q: I am the General Manager of a start-up food co-op in Troy, NY.  Troy is a diverse, small, low/middle income city.  It is also a food desert.  The Troy Community Food Co-op has 730 members, is entering construction, and will open in the fall in an abandoned grocery store.  Organizing and capitalizing has been a long road for a challenged community in a hard economy.
Diana Copeland: Great.  Feel free to contact me as well -  I am extremely busy till June 27th as our organization is one of the main organizers for the United States Social Forum that will be in Detroit from June 22 - 26.

Marty Gerencer - NGFN: Thanks for your question and interest in the NGFN.  The NGFN has two regional leads and many other partners in the Northeast US.  Many of them have worked extensively with food co-ops.  It sounds like you may be interested in technical assistance and entering into discussion of ways to best build your program.  If that is the case, we could talk more about this and then we would be able to connect you to appropriate technical assistance providers.  You can reach me at

Q: Is there a Twitter hashtag for the Webinar by any chance?

A:  #ngfnwbnr

Q: Are there ways to make a CSA approach fit into a fair and just food system? We find that it is difficult for people without good disposable income and cash flow to be able to do it.
JustFood: We are starting a low income CSA by having members of higher income to help pay for low income shares. We are allowing our low income members to use their food stamps to help pay for shares and lastly we were able to obtain a grant.
Kolu Zigbi: One group that has done that well is the Hunger Action Network of New York State -  They run three CSA in which 40 percent of the shares go to low-income people and conducted a workshop about how they do it at the last Just Food conference.  They are even drafting a guide (I believe) about it.   The person who asked can call Hunger Action's director, Mark Dunlea at 212 741-8192.

Q: What are some examples of organizing that resulted in incentives for grocery stores to locate in food-desert neighborhoods?
Kolu Zigbi: In New York City, WE ACT for Environmental Justice (Northern Manhattan - i.e. greater Harlem) helped re-open a supermarket in a housing project in East Harlem and also helped to improve a City and State initiative called FRESH modeled after a Food Trust initiative being adapted all over the country to provide financial incentives for supermarkets owners to open stores in "food deserts."  For the latter, WE ACT worked through a coalition called the Good Food, Good Jobs coalition that included United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, and a Brooklyn-based organizing group called FUREE and perhaps one other.  For more, see the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation's April newsletter (scroll to the story on WE ACT).

Q: What is the name of the National Hmong-American Women Farmer's Association?
Kolu Zigbi: Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women (Minnesota)

Q: What would be the best way to get involved, not only as an individual, but as a small business owner wanting to spread awareness and opportunities for the local community to participate? Is there a particular person or department to contact within Just Food?
JustFood: One way to get involved is to attend and promote our Community Workshop Series to learn from gardeners and farmers about growing more food and growing food justice:   Another way is to join and promote a CSA: You can search for the nearest location in the upper right corner of the screen. You can find out about other ways of getting involved by finding us on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact me at and let me know more about your inerterest, and I can either help you link in, or connect with one of my coworkers or colleagues.

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