Press

Latest mentions of the Food Policy Coalition in the media.

Residents who rely on the Ohio Direction Card for their monthly grocery needs will soon have new, healthier options for their shopping - local Cleveland farmers’ markets.  The City of Cleveland, in collaboration with the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and area farmers’ markets, and with the support of The George Gund Foundation will launch the Ohio Direction Card EBT incentive pilot program.  The program will allow Ohio Direction Card holders to use their cards at four area farmers’ markets and receive an extra five dollars to spend at the market.

Last year, Mayor Frank Jackson introduced legislation that would provide aspiring small-business owners with loans to start food-cart businesses that offer diverse, fresh and low-fat cuisine.

Kevin Schmotzer, executive director of the city's small-business development department, said the food cart program encourages people to become entrepreneurs.

So far, two businesses have applied for loans of up to $5,000 to purchase hot-food carts. The city will offer 10 loans as part of the Cleveland Pilot Food Cart Program.

Because my job is relatively flexible, I have also been able to take on some additional responsibilities that are related to the goals and missions of EFNEP, as well as the needs of EFNEP clientele. One example is my role with the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition as the Health and Nutrition Work Group Chair. Food policy is such an emerging issue in dietetics, and I am very pleased with my role in leading efforts toward improving access of local and healthy foods in our County. Last year, as part of this coalition, I was able to assist local farmer’s markets in offering SNAP benefits at their markets. Currently, I am working on an initiative with the City of Cleveland that will allow for healthy food carts within the City so that people on the go can purchase nutritious, local foods on the street.

“That means both turning a vacant lot into a community garden on East 79th Street and growing plants in the sunny-but-chronically-underused Galleria building,” explains David Pearl of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition. “Add social entrepreneurship to the mix with organizations like City Fresh and Fresh Fork, … and you have the recipe for some exciting changes in the way Cleveland is viewed.”

Today’s Cleveland-Cuyahoga Food Policy Coalition meeting shed light on Cleveland’s new policy to attract and create local, sustainable business. New legislation allows the city to offer a 5% discount to local food businesses bidding for city contracts.

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Local food is not available at the West Side Market. That’s an opportunity, said Ben Bebenroth, chef and co-owner of Spice of Life Catering, which provides a local and seasonal menu for big events. Bebenroth is working with urban farmers and restaurateurs like Flying Fig chef/owner Karen Small to change the model of the market back to what it once was: A place for local food.

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David Pearl, producer of PolyCultures and now co-convener of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Food Policy Coalition (FPC), talked about buying local food from the consumer’s viewpoint. He first considered what buying local meant to him and then set a goal to purchase his groceries this summer from his Cleveland west side neighborhood, even though it lacks a grocery store, from local farmers and/or local businesses (with a strong preference for naturally raised, healthful food).

In Cleveland over the past two decades, shuttered urban supermarkets have been replaced by convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, says the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition. As a result, Cleveland residents have to travel 4.5 times farther to grocery stores than to fast-food restaurants. Distances of four or five miles might not be an issue in suburbia. But in some city neighborhoods, half the households don't have cars, says a coalition report.

Many powerful tools, collaborations and projects under the umbrella of how to make a shrinking city more sustainable are emerging. For example, Cleveland is one of the only cities in the country to have approved an urban garden zoning overlay, a response to local food advocates who wanted to protect community gardens from being destroyed by developers. And last year advocates won a hard-fought battle for an ordinance allowing city residents to raise chickens, bees and even cows and goats in their backyards. Last August, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson embraced sustainability at a summit where 700 participants, from CEOs to high school students, created an agenda for rethinking land, transportation and food as “an economic engine to empower a green city on a blue lake.” The city is recognizing that its vacant land is not a source of shame, but a resource to tap.

See also this article from the author, Marc Lefkowitz, which links to three other companion articles of the main piece in Next American City.

The great thing is that we are approaching this topic from a position of strength.  Cleveland was recently ranked #2 in the nation in terms of local food production.  Organizations such as the Ohio State University Extension, New Agrarian Center, Eco-City Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Countryside Conservancy and the Cleveland Botanical Gardens (among others) should be credited for building the current network of community gardens, food co-ops, Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmers’ markets, advocates and supporters.  They operate at the tactical level - testing soil, conducting workshops, engaging youth and operating distribution points called Fresh stops.  As a group, they are also thinking at the strategic and policy level through the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition.  In addition, Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council support community gardens.  The seeds are being sown.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition has been working with City of Cleveland and Cleveland City Council to develop legislation to encourage the city to leverage its purchasing power to support local farmers and local food.

Networking meetings in the off-season and workshops during the growing season will provide opportunities for cross-learning and relationship building. Access to land was an ongoing challenge for several growers. To address this challenge, the emerging Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition created a working group to focus on land use. This coalition will continue to be used as a forum to address barriers and challenges for urban growers and general food access and nutrition in urban neighborhoods.