- Working Groups
- Contact Us
Community Food Assessment
We take very seriously the impact of our work on Greater Cleveland and the larger region, so we need to understand the area's food system before we seek to change any aspect of it. That's why we're engaged with some of the top food system research projects in this region through our Community Food Assessment Working Group. When we perceive the need for additional information we initiate our own research projects, as with Community Conversations. The goal of Community Food Assessment is to assemble information related to the local food system and based on that make policy recommendations and raise public awareness.
Follow this link to read a comprehensive policy brief prepared by Community Food Assessment about the state of healthy food access in Greater Cleveland and opportunities to improve it.
What is "Community Food Assessment"?
Many neighborhoods in Cleveland are considered "food insecure" because the residents don't have reliable access to fresh, healthy foods. The Northeast Ohio region produces less than 1% of the food it consumes annually, leaving the entire region potentially food insecure in the event of a shock to the international food supply chain.
The region has a rich agricultural tradition and still contains high-quality soils, so there is a great opportunity to build the local food economy while enhancing access to fresh produce for the underserved. Many believe that over the long term sustainably-grown foods in Northeast Ohio could improve the rural economy while improving urban quality of life. Food security for all community members could be the catalyst for achieving a dynamic, environmentally-sound economy reaching beyond just food.
The Coalition strives to view opportunities for economic development and community improvement through the lens of the community’s food system. 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?
These types of questions guide the research that's accomplished in the Community Food Assessment Working Group. For example, our studies have reviewed such topics as: food production, transportation, people’s 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.
2010 Goals of the Community Food Assessment Working Group
The main focus of Community Food Assessment in 2010 is the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan, as well as Community Conversations, which builds on an existing project and thus is explained below in the Results section.
The best way to stay up to date on what each of the working groups is doing is to frequently check the Blog.
Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment & Plan
Recognizing the economic, environmental, and social opportunity here, NEO has emerged in the last five years as a national leader in the development of sustainable local food systems. This is in large part due to the efforts of many organizations to develop innovative public-private partnerships around food. In Cuyahoga County alone, these efforts have resulted in 200 community gardens and 20 urban farms, as well as over 20 farmers' markets and several community-supported agriculture programs.
The Cleveland Foundation has provided funding to a coalition of non-profit organizations to use this momentum as a springboard for the development of a strategic business plan that will map out how to take local food markets to scale. The major goal of the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan is to create a significant economic development strategy for the region based on the production, processing, and distribution of local food.
The Assessment began in early 2010 when the coalition of 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 is considering 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. The quantitative analysis component will feature the use of the IMPLAN method for evaluating the impact of "import substitution" as a means for economic development through supporting locally-owned businesses. The Assessment will culminate in November 2010 with a final report and public forum on findings.
Follow this link to learn more about the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment & Plan.
Here's an article about a concurrent project the Coalition has helped convene, known as the Agricultural Biosciences Industry Cluster. That group has had open lines of communication with the NEO Assessment so they are able to incorporate each other's findings into their reports and avoid duplicating efforts.
Results Achieved through the Community Food Assessment Working Group
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.
City of Cleveland Ratifies "Food Charter"
As you can read about in this article, Councilman Joe Cimperman introduced three big piece of legislation on October 15, 2008, one of which is known as 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 created by the Community Food Assessment Working Group and then 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.