Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Community Food Environment

Note about the posting:

The following document is posted to the Center for Urban Transformation blog because it is referenced in another document posted here. The first draft of the paper was completed in November of 2004 and was done after discussions with several people who said “write a paper”. The paper was first disseminated in the Spring of 2005 before the popularization of the “food desert” designation by Mari Gallagher and also before a February presentation at the former Park National Bank building by myself, La Donna Redmond and others at which Ms Gallagher was in attendance and stated clearly that she wasn’t aware of the link between the access to high quality food and public health outcomes. In fairness during a recent conversation Mari stated she doesn't remember the conversation. Who said what, when and where doesn't really matter; what does matter is that we recognize the impact diet and nutrition related illness has on ALL communities and that we provide the access, education and cultural framework required to support change and wellness. A study by Ms Gallagher appeared later in 2006 entitled Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago. 

But again we knew what the impacts were and the study confirmed what was known by health care professionals and  community residents and activists. We remember books, like "How to Eat to Live" by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the work of people like Dr. Alvenia Fulton as pathways for linking food and health for me going back to the late 1960's. The Black community has a long history of  activism around food and public health and the work goes on. We need the support and insights from sources both inside and outside of the community as we move forward to develop the institutions, organizations and programs (from field to fork) necessary to create healthy and sustainable communities for people of African descent and the planet. 

The paper was written in a style that is a reflection of our commitment to do work that accessible to everyone and also a reflection of the fact that we have never gotten funding to do research. We don’t have to do research because we live it. We can do research but that is not our purpose. Our purpose is to heal people and communities such as the national and international community of people of African descent in particular but all people generally.

These communities have been marginalized and oppressed for not decades but centuries. One feature of that marginalization and oppression has been the lack of access to high quality food that is a historical phenomena that began with capture and placement in African peoples in the slave castles on the west African coast; during the shipment to the various points of entry throughout the western hemisphere; on to the plantations and cities of the era and finally in contemporary times, in the cities where most people of African descent currently live.

For an excellent overview of the history of African American foodways see “Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America” by Dr. Frederick Douglass Opie of Marist College and his blog entitled Hog and Hominy: Culture, Cooking, Travel and Traditions at Also see the blog for Dr. Monica White of Wayne State University at

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Thrive!

Orrin Williams October 2010; new version December 2010.

 The Community Food Environment:
Creating the Essential Source for Healthy Communities


The term “community” in common parlance is a group of people that share some unique common features. People in general speak of the “community” when there is some issue or concern that confronts them and their sense of collective spirit. It is often difficult to determine where the “community” begins and ends. Or perhaps the community doesn’t really end at all particularly when we consider the true nature of our interconnected existence.

The sociocultural underpinnings of western societies struggle mightily with a worldview and frame of reference that seeks to separate humanity from each other as well as other sentient beings. Western sociocultural forms also insist that the Earth’s habitat is separate from the cosmos and thus the cosmic order.

The true nature of things however is quite different as there is a profound interrelationship between humans and other sentient beings, the Earth and the cosmos. All things are indeed One. As such the community is as defined in biological and ecological terms as generally and for our purposes here as an interacting group of living, sentient entities that interact with their physical and natural surroundings or environment. For urban communities, the community is the area in which you live and the interaction you have with it for providing the services required for life. The overall health of an ecological community, which is what a human community really is, is directly related to the quality of services available to the community. Poor services equal a poor environment for a community to exist in; excellent quality equals an excellent community environment. The challenge is to provide healthy, sustainable communities for all regardless of race, class or any other factors. The focus of this brief paper is food and the role that it plays in a creating a healthy ecosystem or environment in a given community or more specifically what we call the – food environment.

African – Americans and the Food Environment

The food environment as defined by the Center for Urban Transformation (CUT) is the local and regional network from which a community obtains its nutrients. (National and global factors influence the health of the community food environment but a discussion of those factors is beyond the scope of this paper.)
The major concern with the food environment that serves a community is the quality of the nutrient flow a given community has access to. The primary reason for this concern is that the supply and quality of nutrients within a community’s food environment has a direct and profound impact upon the overall health of a community. This correlation between nutrient flows in a community and the health of a community is important to every stage of life, even beginning prior to conception until the end of life. Effectively the supply and quality of the nutrient flow of a community as well as the utilization of that nutrient flow at the individual level determines a host of public health indicators for a community and thus the health status of a community. The overall health of a community can be manifest in a statistical array that measures but is not limited to the following:
Prenatal Health
Early Developmental Processes; Physical, Psychological and Cognitive
Character and Behavioral Development
Immunological Health
A Variety of Cancers
A Variety of Cardiovascular Diseases; Hypertension, Elevated Cholesterol, Heart Attacks and Strokes

These diseases and others not mentioned are impacted directly and profoundly by the supply and quality of a community’s nutrient flows. The correlation between quality nutrition, diet and health is incontrovertible with literally thousands of documents and studies corroborating the correlation. Other factors also contribute to poor health outcomes such as high levels of stress, lack of facilities and spaces for exercise, lack of green space and beautiful landscapes, as well as unhealthy levels of environmental pollutants in the air, water and soil. All of these factors as well as others not listed here are the underlying causes of the high rates of disease in the communities that are predominately inhabited by people of African descent. (While the focus here is African – American communities there should be no celebrations in any other communities. Lower rates don’t mean better; they only means lower. The overall health of Americans is generally not as good as it could be. One reason is because while some communities have greater access, the quality and the choices available in their food environments is poor and the ancillary  factors, such as lack of exercise, that contribute to overall health are not good.

Americans in general don’t get enough exercise, are stressed out, eat on the run and eat highly processed foods that are easy to obtain and consume in their food environments. Just like other forms of environmental degradation such as poor air quality if it is very, very bad in the African – American community, it’s very bad everywhere else. (Latinos and white folks have children with asthma too. Remember the truth of interconnection the same factors contribute to asthma in all children).

Of general interest is the relationship between the African – American community in Chicago with its food environment. Of particular interest is the Englewood/West Englewood (EWE) community areas in Chicago as it will be where the Center for Urban Transformation (CUT) will focus its’ organizational activities. That said the food environment in virtually every community of people of African descent in Chicago or nationally will have patterns very similar to those experienced in EWE community. Recent research and program development has been done for over two years in the Austin community area of Chicago’s West Side. That research has concluded that the food environment in the Austin community is poor in terms of both quality and access.

 The research and project development effort that is a joint effort between the community – based organization, the Institute for Community Resource Development (ICRD) and the Policy Research Action Group (PRAG) is a consortium of community-based and community-focused nonprofit organizations and urban universities which currently include Chicago State University, DePaul University, Loyola University of Chicago, National-Louis University, and University of Illinois, Chicago.

Data is beginning to emerge about various aspects of the food environment of the Austin community. For example, community members recruited by the Westside Health Authority teamed with students from Loyola and Chicago State universities to visit every store in Austin and the bordering suburban community of Oak Park, Illinois to begin an intensive study of food availability. The teams visited a total of 134 stores in the two communities gathering data on the availability and price of food from a list of 102 basic food items.

Some of the findings the research data revealed are that there was a major difference in the food environment of Oak Park and the Austin community although Oak Park is a suburb that sits on the western border of Chicago, specifically the Austin community. Austin has many more outlets selling food than Oak Park with 95 of the 134. Of the 95 stores 50 were small “ma and pop” stores, 19 were liquor stores selling food. Austin’s food environment included only one chain grocer, two chain discount grocers and 3 independent grocers. The researchers looked at how the stores in the two communities differed in terms of price, availability of produce and price. The data revealed that the chain grocer in Austin carried almost every item on the list of 102 basic products. By contrast the discount chains and small stores were missing a vast number of products from the list and the discount grocers didn’t carry culturally significant items such as greens. The most striking finding is that produce determined to be of poor quality was found only in the Austin food environment and organic food was virtually unavailable.

Overall prices were lower in Austin, however the variables that perhaps explain the difference is the availability of food from discount outlets and lower prices for meat and produce in the independent groceries and small stores in contrast to the prices in the chain groceries. The quality of goods in the Austin food environment compared to the Oak Park food environment is unquestionably inferior. This is with great probability one feature in the leakage of dollars spent on food by residents of the Austin community into nearby communities such as Oak Park.

Englewood/West Englewood Food Environment

Developing a theory about the food environment in EWE predicts that the assessment would conclude that the food environment is poor at best. Any differences in the food environments in Austin and EWE would be explained by the socioeconomic factors present in each community, such as the smaller percentage of lower income households; the sheer size of the Austin community area (Austin is the largest community area in Illinois, if it were a separate municipality only Chicago, Rockford and Naperville have a larger population). Otherwise it is predicted that the percentage of economic leakage will approximate the percentage of leakage in Austin. Economic leakage is the amount of money spent outside of the community. Quantifying leakage is a tricky assessment in that many of the dollars spent in the community are spent in stores whose owners live outside of the community. Another element to consider is the role chain, big box retail outlets have on the local economy. One organization that has done compelling and profound work on this impact is Civic Economics ( The organization which began in Austin, Texas, now with offices in Chicago demonstrated convincingly in the Executive Summary of Economic Impact Analysis: A Case Study Local Merchants vs. Chain Retailers that local merchants should form an integral part of the economic and commercial sectors of a community. The case study “compared the local economic impact of three freestanding stores, Borders and local businesses BookPeople and Waterloo” (BookPeople is a local bookstore and Waterloo is a music store). Three principal finding emerged:

  1. Local merchants generate substantially greater economic impact than chain retailers.
  2. Development of urban sites with directly competitive chain merchants will reduce the overall vigor of the local economy.
  3. Modest changes in consumer spending habits can generate substantial local economic impact.

The first two “facts” that emerged are fairly straight forward; the third principal evaluated the impact in the county in which Austin, TX is located if each household shifted $100 of Christmas gift shopping from chain retailers to local businesses. The impact of that shift in spending behaviors would be a boost of $10 million to the local economy.

The first two “facts” revealed that the local economic return for a $100 dollars in spending was $13 at Borders and more than three times as much when spent at BookPeople and Waterloo with the local economy realizing a benefit of $45. Further analysis revealed the in 2002 annual economic benefit per store to the local economy as $800K for Borders; $2.8 mil for BookPeople and $4.1 mil for Waterloo.

While the results of the Austin study indicates the importance of local ownership in a successful formula for sustainable economies and communities Civic Economics did a broader study on the impact of local retailers in Chicago in the north side community of Andersonville. Some highlights of the Andersonville study revealed the following:

In a study comparing the economic impact of ten Andersonville
businesses and their chain competitors, it was found that:

Locally-owned businesses generate a substantial Local
Premium in enhanced economic impact:

1.       For every $100 in consumer spending with a local firm,
$68 remains in the Chicago economy.
2.       For every $100 in consumer spending with a chain firm,
$43 remains in the Chicago economy.
3.       For every square foot occupied by a local firm, local
economic impact is $179.
4.       For every square foot occupied by a chain firm, local
economic impact is $105.

Consumers surveyed on the streets of Andersonville
strongly prefer the neighborhood over agglomerations of
common chain stores:

1.       Over 70% prefer to patronize locally-owned businesses.
2.       Over 80% prefer traditional urban business districts.
3.       Over 10% of respondents reside outside the City of

The study points to clear policy implications:

  1. Local merchants generate substantially greater economic impact than chain firms.
  2. Replacement of local businesses with chains will reduce the overall vigor of the local economy.
  3. Changes in consumer spending habits can generate substantial local economic impact.
  4. Great care must be taken to ensure that public policy
decisions do not inadvertently disadvantage locally owned
businesses. Indeed, it may be in the best interests of communities to institute policies that directly protect them.

The lessons for the overall development of EWE (as well as the surrounding communities which also have important redevelopment plans and strategies in progress and secondary food environments as well as potential markets) should follow the precepts and tenets revealed through the insightful work of Civic Economics and its partners in Austin, TX and Chicago. The creation of the local food environment specifically should to the greatest extent possible and practical be dominated by local retail (as well as wholesale and distribution outlets) companies.

Historically, since the arrival of Africans in the Americas in general and the United States in particular, until the present, the majority of people of African descent have inhabited poor and marginal food environments. The Middle Passage was the beginning of a historical cycle of marginal food environments that continue to contemporary times. Yams are described as the overwhelmingly dominant food provided to captive Africans during transit across the Atlantic Ocean. One African survivor vividly described the predominance of yams as the foodstuff provided during transit and how over one-third of those aboard the ship didn’t survive the crossing. He also described that upon arrival he was in poor condition and unable to stand. (See This was typical and the marginal food environment was extended to the plantation where the captives according to written and archeological records had poorer, marginal food choices such as poorer cuts of meat, receiving the portions that plantation owners discarded, as well as a poorer selection of vegetables and fruits. After Emancipation and following the waves of migratory activities that find 85% of people of African descent living in urban communities the food environment nationally is marginal, continuing the pattern in place since captivity and transit to the Western Hemisphere.

Another clear pattern is that poorer public health outcomes can be expected as described by the captive that couldn’t stand upon arrival and the deaths of over one-third of the captives and continuing to contemporary time manifest in the health statistics and outcomes in communities of African descent. The literature is replete with high rates of cancers, cardiovascular disease, infant mortality and developmental problems, obesity and diabetes. In fact one of the great paradoxes is the rates of obesity seen low and moderate income communities. Low income or poor people are not typically obese in countries of the global south. Why then is it the case in low income communities in the global north? Could it be the marginal natures of the food environment in Chicago, New York, etc. versus the lack of availability in say Kingston or Soweto? Whatever the answer, it is imperative that after suffering the negative impacts of marginal food environments for over 400 years that the development and implementation of an excellent, life sustaining food environment (in Chicago and elsewhere) ensues.

Description of the Optimal, Sustainable Food Environment in Urban Communities

The food environment of a community is the sum total of all of the places which an inhabitant of a community may obtain food for consumption. The pattern of consumption within the food environment for an individual or family varies and to satisfy those varied patterns of consumption there are varied sources from which to obtain food within a community’s food environment. A food environment will include stores ranging from grocery stores (ranging from 5,000 to 100,000 square feet), to convenience stores, liquor stores, “ma and pa” corner stores, produce stands; as well as restaurants ranging from fast food (chain and independently-owned), “sit-down”, as well as other restaurant configurations.

The type and quality of the sum total of a community’s food environment has a pronounced impact on the quality of life and is an indicator of the overall public health status of the community. The quality of a community’s food environment like those of other environmental, social and economic justice issues can be generally predicted and determined by the dominant racial characteristics of a community. In general, the food environments in predominantly White communities on the north side of Chicago such as Lincoln Park, Lakeview or Edgewater have good food environments. Predominately Black south side communities such as Englewood, New City, Chatham and South Shore have poor to fair food environments relative to the north side communities in terms of quality, selection, amenities, ambience and customer service. The contradictions are further heightened by the fact that in Chicago there is but one grocery store owned by a person of African descent. This fact exists in spite of demographic information that Chicago has the largest African – American population of any county in the United States with 1.4 million people of African descent according to the U.S. Census. Of the African – American population in Cook County 1.06 million live in Chicago. Nearly one-third of African –American families earn household incomes of more than $50,000, with a median household income of $29,086. The median income for people of African descent in Chicago is lower than that for any other racial group with the median income for whites being $49,222, for Hispanics it is $35,543 and for Asians it is $40,529.

The Local Initiative Support Corporation of Chicago (LISC) ( has a New Communities Program (NCP) which is focused on developing healthy communities through comprehensive planning and project implementation in 16 Chicago communities ( One element of the NCP for each targeted community is “Top 10 Issues: What Neighbors Talk About”, in that portion of the NCP, communities such as Englewood wanted to see retail food outlets and the emergence of African-American entrepreneurship. This is one of the central programming areas of the CUT; additionally the Englewood community is where the organization wants to create its initial retail food and grocery outlets.

The CUT plans in this area also include the development and construction of its flagship large grocery store (at least 25,000 square feet). The Bronzeville community had been where the CUT had planned to develop its flagship store; the organization’s strategic plan has since shifted to Englewood for the development of its initial food and grocery based operations. This is consistent with the CUT long range planning that includes the proliferation of food and grocery based businesses into several south side communities. The CUT see the development of an optimal food environment as one of the most important elements for creating healthy and sustainable communities. The underpinning for this rationale is the implication of nutritional and dietary factors in a host of diseases and public health crises, locally, regionally and nationally. The food environment is therefore a critical element in the creation of an excellent public health sector as it is an element in the economic and community development aspects of healthy and sustainable communities.

The food environment in a community as stated earlier is a diverse and varied environment. As such while a goal is to develop the larger grocery store there must be a focus on developing various food and grocery niches within a community’s food environment. In order to meet the needs of a community’s nutrient flows various niches in the food environment must be occupied. Each niche in the food environment in a community is critical to the creation of a healthy and sustainable community. Therefore the CUT will outline here the niches of the food environment with benchmarks for their development and implementation.

The Food Environment: The CUT Englewood Plan

As stated earlier the optimal food environment of a community is as diverse as any other ecosystem. Forests, oceans, lakes, ponds and even deserts have diverse species and niches within its boundaries if it is healthy and in balance. The same is true the food environment in a community that is healthy, ecologically sustainable and human oriented. The CUT recognizes the following elements as vital to a healthy food environment:

Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture

The CUT recognizes the important role of community gardens and urban agricultural systems in a community’s food environment. Even this aspect of a food environment is varied in its application with environmental niches such as small backyard gardens supplementing a family’s nutrient flow to large commercial greenhouse and hydroponic operations. The common element in the development of this food environment niche is the safety of community residents and the environment in any application. Examples of this include soil testing, the construction of raised garden beds, and the use of safe materials for the construction of the garden beds.

 For larger operations such as greenhouses and hydroponic facilities the focus will be on worker health and safety as well as environmental protection through the use of ecological and organic agricultural practices adapted for urban applications. The development and exploration of the potential of this niche has barely been done virtually anywhere in the United States. Other countries such as Canada, Cuba, Australia, Spain, Israel and Mexico have been much more aggressive in developing this food environment niche. This particular niche has great potential for widespread application within the realm of brownfields redevelopment and the recycling of commercial facilities in several south side communities. Hydroponics and greenhouse also offer options for the residential grower to extend growing seasons (greenhouses) and/or to grow a portion of their food year-round (hydroponics).

The large-scale commercial operations of the future are an area of interest to the CUT. The smaller urban farms and community gardens are projects which the CUT will play an advocacy role rather than a participatory one. The CUT will provide letters of support and any other institutional support that other organizations or institutions may require.

Produce Markets

The CUT is interested in facilitating the development of several strategically located produce markets throughout the EWE program area. The produce markets will occupy commercial spaces typically scaled between 6,000 sq. ft to 8,000 sq. ft. The produce market program will sell products other than produce; however produce will be the primary focus of these outlets. The anticipated product mix will include organic products to the greatest extent possible predicated upon market receptivity and demand. Conventionally grown produce will also be available for those customers that prefer them because of cost or other factors. The produce markets will also serve as venues for product demonstrations for marketing new products to the community allowing in particular the organic food sector to increase its market share through outreach to communities that have been traditionally ignored by the organic food sector and are in need of a vastly upgraded community food environment. From a broader perspective the market support for organic precuts will assist in a more ecologically sound agricultural system in the United States and globally. A larger and diverse market will also facilitate a lowering of the price points for organic produce and products as quantities and demand increase.

Another important element for the produce markets will as potential markets for local and regional limited-resource farmers in general and farmers of African descent in particular. A focus on developing markets for limited-resource farmers will provide an incentive for more farmers in Illinois and the Midwest region to shift to production crops (broccoli, greens, apples, etc.) from commodity crops (corn, wheat, oats, etc.). Also increased revenues for this group of farmers will hopefully assist their ability to attract capital for things such as farm equipment; equipment and buildings that allow the extension of the growing season; transportation for getting products to markets and labor.

The recommended scale of the produce markets in the EWE food environment will allow space for selling some grocery items, bulk products and perishable goods (such as a small meat and fish section, fruit juices, eggs, etc.).

Grocery Stores

EWE particularly as it is redeveloped and reinvigorated will be able to support several grocery stores within its boundaries with stores ranging up to about 30,000 sq. ft. The grocery stores will be full service grocery stores selling a variety of products with an innovative product mix that heretofore as not been seen in the community  (see as an example). The CUT envisions these venues as having facilities that allow for educational and community outreach programs such as cooking, health education and exercise classes ranging from dance to martial arts to yoga.

Included in the product mix will be vitamins, herbs, natural body care products as well as a range of products one would anticipate being available in a full service grocery store. Another market that should be supported by the network of produce markets and grocery stores is the fair trade system particularly for products such as tea; coffee and cacao (see and

The CUT envisions developing at least one store in the EWE boundaries that also has facilities for complementary medicine practices including western, allopathic medicine; acupuncture, chiropractic as well as other modalities. Ideally the facility would operate in partnership with an institution such as St. Bernard’s Hospital; if not feasible an institutional relationship with Northwestern University or the University of Chicago medical schools and/or hospitals may be possible.

The CUT is also particularly interested in opportunities to develop at least one grocery store to anchor a transit-oriented development (TOD) project somewhere along the green and/or red rapid transit lines. The CUT is particularly interested in developing a TOD venture near the 63rd and Ashland green line station that would be able to benefit from not only transit customers but also the heavy automobile traffic on both 63rd Street as well as the traffic on Ashland Ave. Other ventures in a TOD project in that area could include businesses such as an environmentally friendly dry cleaner (, a day care center, fitness center, cooperative bookstore and a copy center to name a few options.

The ultimate goal of both the produce markets and grocery stores is to offer consumers a range of high quality products, excellent customer service and great ambience in a well-lit, exceptionally clean environment.


This section excludes major chain fast food establishments. The CUT favors sit down restaurants that serve a range of clienteles from families to couples and are open to accommodate a breakfast, lunch or dinner clientele as well as late night diners. Far more interesting restaurant possibilities exist particularly if there was an active recruitment program to attract restaurateurs offering a variety of ethnic cuisines, vegetarian, seafood specialty options. It is interesting to consider that the African-American community may be more interested in variety than it is often given credit for and that it is also quite possible that the EWE community can become a desirable south side destination for restaurant dining.

There should be an emphasis on the same high quality standards for this sector as there is for any other niche in the community food environment. There should also be strict attention paid to attracting restaurateurs that are committed to offering choices that are beneficial to the overall health of the community’s residents. While it is impossible to restrict the capacity of fast food chains and their unhealthy offerings from entering the community it is imperative that we have options on the opposite end of the spectrum offering healthy options for this niche of the community food environment.

Food-Based Community and Economic Development Opportunities

There should be an emphasis placed on the development of special market opportunities to develop and emerge for those seeking entrepreneurial opportunities in the community food environment. Opportunities in this niche that may be of interest include but are not limited to, grocery/produce markets in senior citizen buildings, mobile produce stands, caterers and bakery operations.

Caterers and bakers could share a business incubator commercial kitchen that would be available on a subscription or reservation basis. Participants would be provided with support services required to establish a successful food based microenterprise. The facility would meet all of the health and safety standards required for a commercial food business making these companies eligible to provide wholesale and retail products to various businesses in the community food environment. One such example would be supplying bread and other baked goods to grocery stores and produce markets in the EWE food environment and throughout the region.

A bakery is another business component that the CUT is interested in developing. The Greyston Foundation, an organization is an inspiration to and of which many of the CUT program designs are modeled, has a bakery business that the CUT considers worthy of replication in the Englewood community. The CUT version of the Greyston Bakery will reflect the local market realities and have an expanded product mix including breads, cookies and pies, with a commitment to using the highest quality ingredients, while retaining much of the Greyston Bakery model.

The bakery facility could potentially be planned, developed and constructed as the site for the commercial kitchen business incubator. Resources such as office staff, photocopying, fax line(s), accounting, etc. could be planned to accommodate members of the incubator. The only restrictions to membership in the commercial kitchen business incubator are capacity, an unwillingness to apply high quality standards to the products manufactured on site and failure to meet any licensing or regulatory requirements that may exist. The commercial kitchen business incubator would be a full service facility available to entrepreneurs in virtually any aspect of the food business sector and would not be limited to those in the bakery sector. More information about commercial kitchen incubators and how they are organized may be found at the Wisconsin Kitchen Incubator Network, the Acenet: Food Ventures the Community Kitchen Incubator Orientation Guide and the Toronto Kitchen Incubator.

Mom and Pop stores must be included in the community food environment and provided with the technical and financial services for those establishments that are interested in upgrading their product mix and contributing to improving the public health outcomes in Englewood. The planning, development and implementation of a program to accomplish these goals and to benefit this niche of the food environment is critical. This category of businesses may indeed share the goals of creating healthy communities but for example they may lack the resources necessary to obtain the proper refrigeration and display units for produce. Capital acquisition programs for this type of upgrade should be created to facilitate the creation of a healthy Englewood and improving the economic development calculus for small business operators.

Creating the Healthy Community Food Environment

This section offers only the briefest overview of some of the program elements that are required for creating a comprehensive, short and long term plan for the community food environment in the Englewood community.

  1. GIS Mapping of the community food environment as it currently exists; creation of maps detailing the short and long term potential for creating all of the elements outlined above in the community food environment of the future.
  2. Focus groups of community residents to receive their input into the design of the community food environment. A focus group of merchants should also be created including not only store owners (regardless of scale of operation) and entities such as entrepreneurs that sell produce from their pickup trucks to determine what their needs may be relative to the creation of the new community food environment.
  3. Creation of an advisory committee and team of consultants to provide various levels of technical assistance for various program aspects throughout the development process. An example of the type of assistance this team of consultants would provide is business plan creation for various food based businesses. The team would also provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs interested in creating food-based businesses with business plan development, market analysis and legally organizing the appropriate corporate structure.
  4. A development and fund raising strategy is undoubtedly the most critical piece. Program support for the CUT as well as other community stakeholders is critical especially for the next 5 to 6 years. Financial support is also required to pay for the services of consultants and other providers of technical assistance for various aspects of the program. Pro bon services are nice but paid services creates a system of priorities and accountability that are not generally established in pro bono arrangements. While pro bono services and in-kind services are desirable in some cases, the experiences of the staff and directors of the CUT have led us to conclude that human and organizational behaviors are not the same for paying clients and the recipients of pro bono services. Thus development and fund raising activities must be a priority if the CUT or any other stakeholders are to be successful in creating an excellent community food environment.
  5. Commitment to “green” architecture and design for all projects in its various manifestations.

This concludes this briefing paper and its publication should not be construed as the definitive instrument concerning the topics presented here. The CUT certainly has its program ideas, ethics, values and goals that it brings to the table but the organization comes to the table in the spirit of communalism and relishes the role of facilitator in a process that includes many individuals and institutions to insure programmatic success.

This briefing paper also is not a detailed strategic plan or guideline for any project but it does provide some insight into the organizational thinking of the CUT, its staff and Board of Directors. The CUT hopes that other organizations and individuals share our vision and that will work closely with us to pursue the overarching goal of creating and healthy Englewood and the creation of a high quality community food environment. It is also our goal that the program elements here and the success of the programs created in Englewood provide a source of inspiration and replicable programs for other communities in the United States and globally.

Orrin Williams
Center for Urban Transformation
May 2005