Communities for Healthy Food: The Toolkit

New York City neighborhoods have long benefited from community-based organizations such as settlement houses and community development corporations (CDC’s). They tailor the work to the needs of the community and often cover the realms of housing, education, community organizing, and services such as food pantries. LISC NYC, with seed funding from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, created Communities for Healthy Food to integrate affordable, healthy food access and social justice into community development strategies in five of New York City’s economically challenged neighborhoods.

The initiative integrates access to healthy and affordable food and food justice principles into every aspect of community development work through:

1. Outreach, nutrition education, and cooking classes;

2. Creating new or improved healthy food outlets;

3. Generating food-sector jobs;

4. Building leadership skills on food systems; and

5. Sharing ideas on growing food and sustainable practices.

In 2018 LISC NYC published a toolkit  (attached) to help community organizations across the country use healthy food initiatives and food justice principles to better their community development efforts. It provides information on connecting food programs, spurring economic development, building community knowledge, and creating social connectivity. The toolkit presents a flexible and holistic approach to planning, designing, and implementing a portfolio of programs to ensure low-income communities and communities of color have access to healthier food options, a voice in the food movement, and economic opportunities. It also speaks to the design, implementation and results of a comprehensive evaluation.

The primary audience is community-based organizations, but this toolkit will also be useful to funders and non-profit intermediaries interested in supporting community-based organizations in this work.

I was hired on, initially as a Community Healthy Food Advocate, to lead this work at New Settlement Apartments in the Bronx. New Settlement’s thirty years of history in our neighborhood is instrumental to how we carry out our work. This knowledge base informs our perspective on community assets and needs. We also leverage New Settlement’s programs and partners to build cross-sector programs. In spite of the unique set of challenges presented by CDC-based food work, our sites have spurred innovation and reimagined the role of community organizations in food systems.

How do you interface with multi-service community-based organizations in your work? Do they address food systems and food justice issues? If not, is the interest there? What barriers do you face in building these partnerships?

Taisy Conk


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