Lab Note #2: Congrats to the inaugural Gamechangers cohort!

After a rigorous selection process that engaged 16 peer reviewers, 3 Lab Advisors, and Wallace Center staff, we are so excited to finally announce the three fantastic teams who will participate in this inaugural year of the Gamechangers Laboratory! It was incredibly tough to only choose 3, as there were so many great teams and challenges among the applicants. We did our best to select three very different kinds of challenges that we hope the Lab will help generate strategies and solutions for and will produce learning and ideas for the broader FSLN community. So, without further ado, here are the final teams, their key challenges, and what they're hoping to do through Gamechangers:
Foodlink Community Health Partners (Rochester, NY) -- Tom Silva, Florence Clemmons, and Margaret Liljedahl
Traditional food banking alone cannot fix the inequities in our food system. Foodlink's Community Health Team is seeking to transform the conventional model from community-based to community-driven and led, and explore how food banks can shift from social service to social change. This three-member team from Rochester, New York, with its community connections, innovative spirit, and history of collaboration will work in partnership with its Foodlink clients and community members to pilot new and lasting solutions. The Gamechangers Lab will guide the team through its challenges, help identify levers of change, and support the co-creation of action plans to democratize programs and invite community members into the driver’s seat of program design and impact.
ReFresh Food Collaborative (New Orleans, LA) -- Lauren Reyes, Tasheena Butler, Michael Richard, Marguerite Green, and Elisa Munoz Miller

Despite successful collaborations and partnerships across organizations operating along different points of the food value chain – from farmer support and youth development to distribution and policy – many New Orleans’ communities continue to lack access to healthy, affordable, culturally relevant food, and small farmers continue to operate on a shoestring. The ReFresh Food Collaborative is a five-member, five-organization team  representing TopBox Foods, Liberty’s Kitchen, Recirculating Farms Coalition, SPROUT NOLA, and New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee—organizations with a rich history of collaboration, deep roots in community, and dedication and passion for creating an equitable and sustainable community-based food system who are eager to take their existing collaborations to the next level. The Gamechangers Lab will support them as they seek to leverage and strategically align their organizations’ unique strengths, resources, programs and infrastructure to support and build a community-based food system from farm to fork. 
GRRO Good Bowls (Henderson, NC)-- Henry & Ardis Crews, Lucette Mercer, Laura Fieselman and Alice Ammerman
In 2018, North Carolina became the first state in the US to authorize the allocation of Medicaid funds to address the social determinants of health through its "Healthy Opportunities Pilots” program. The GRRO Good Bowls Team, with a history of seeking solutions for reducing food insecurity and diet-related illnesses while increasing economic development opportunities in rural North Carolina, recognizes the potential that this pilot has to develop healthy and flourishing rural communities. Through the Gamechangers Lab, this five-member team of farmers, entrepreneurs, academics, and activists from Henderson County’s Green Rural Redevelopment Organization, Inc., Good Bowls LLC, and the University of North Carolina, is seeking to more deeply work through its community food system’s known – and unknown – challenges to create innovative strategies for leveraging this state-wide opportunity and flip the script on what is possible for community-based food systems in their rural community. 
As you can see, this is a powerhouse crew of people wrestling with some tricky systems challenges that are certainly relevant in communities across the US. They are already Gamechangers in my book, and I can’t wait to see what they create together between now and their culminating presentations at the National Good Food Network conference in March 2020! We’re gearing up for our kick-off call on September 9th, when the teams will start Phase 1 of their design journey. Check out next month’s Lab Note to get an update on their progress and to access the tools they’re using in this first part of the program.