This article is part of a Seedstock series profiling women who are leading change in sustainable agriculture and local food. Read more here.
In 2003, Natasha Lantz became a member and started volunteering at the Marquette Food Co-op, a store that sells locally-produced food in Marquette, Michigan, in the state’s Upper Peninsula. Now, she serves as the organization’s outreach director.
As a volunteer, Lantz found herself unloading trucks, pricing merchandise and stocking shelves. She enjoyed her work, but noticed that not much outreach to the community was taking place. She asked management if she could start a bulletin board—this was approved. She later successfully ran for a position on the Co-op’s board of directors, and kept volunteering.
Local food growers, consumers and entrepreneurs in the Lansing, Michigan area have had good cause to celebrate as of late. Last September, Allen Neighborhood Center, a community development agency that doubles as Mid-Michigan’s nonprofit food hub, opened the doors of a warehouse they’d spent months renovating.
Located directly behind their community center on the city’s northeast side, that building, the Allen Market Place, now serves as an incubator kitchen and indoor market. It’s also linked to an online market called the Exchange, that connects regional farmers and food producers with commercial and institutional buyers in a 75-mile range of Lansing.
“Our challenge is not only feeding people who are hungry today, but how do we work proactively to address the causes of hunger and poverty?,” asks Kathryn Strickland, Executive Director of the Food Bank of North Alabama. “That’s why we’re interested in supporting economic development within in our local food system; to help create meaningful jobs and healthy food access to really get at the root cause of the hunger and poverty,” says Kathryn Strickland.
What started as a single volunteer sitting behind a desk in a local senior center in 1984 has blossomed into an organization that helps feed 100,000 people over an 8,000 square mile service area in Northern Alabama, with the help of 200 partnering agencies. As Strickland explains, the food bank doesn’t only want to reduce hunger; it wants to give local residents, farmers and stakeholders the tools to connect the dots of a local food system.
When it comes to food, Robert Egger is all in favor of making the most of what you’ve got.
Twenty-five years ago, Egger founded D.C. Central Kitchen, a “community kitchen” that uses salvaged food to make meals for agencies servicing low-income and homeless individuals and provides culinary training to unemployed men and women.
Egger stepped down as its president last year to start a new project called L.A. Kitchen, based in his hometown of Los Angeles. Similar in concept to the D.C. nonprofit, the new kitchen places a greater emphasis on participating in the local food economy. Egger sees the effort as “taking charity up a notch” and establishing “a self-sustaining model” that supports local farmers, helps local residents and provides opportunities for men and women who may face barriers to employment.
San Antonio has lots of poverty and cheap land.
Now, through urban gardening and sustainability, the San Antonio Housing Authority is starting to use all that extra space help the population.
SAHA has found a great deal of success enhancing community development through local food. Their efforts are led by Beth Keel, Sustainability Initiatives Liason, who works on everything from energy efficiency to stormwater catchment.
To Keel, sustainability is a key part of any vision for affordable housing.
“Short-term cost savings are a big motivator, but it’s also longevity. These buildings are intended to last many more decades than most building designs and keep providing public benefit,” she says.