On August 4th, CFF and Philanthropy New York hosted a day-long South Bronx Learning Tour to highlight people and organizations using food as a vehicle to bring residents together and catalyze change in their neighborhoods. Twenty-five funders participated in the bus tour that included six stops and nine organizations across the South Bronx. Working on issues such as restorative justice, female empowerment, youth development, economic development, health and nutrition, and more, these groups were growing food, cooking meals, working with bodegas, running farmers’ markets, and creating buying clubs to achieve their goals.
La Finca del Sur
The tour began at La Finca del Sur, an urban farmer cooperative led by Latina and Black women and their allies. We heard from co-founders Nancy Ortiz-Surun and Regina Ginyard, as well as other volunteers at the farm. An example of the programming that takes place in the farm was happening that day, with the Grow More Vegetables With Youth program organized by Bronx Green-Up. Bronx Green-Up is a community-based horticultural training program of The New York Botanical Garden that provides free horticulture education, training, and technical assistance to Bronx residents, community gardeners, urban farmers, schools, and community organizations. Representatives of the youth groups present, Friends of Brook Park and The Point CDC, discussed their work in the food system and the many programs that each offers to the community.
Friends of Brook Park
We met back up with Ray Figueroa and the young people he works with at Brook Park. Their organization, Friends of Brook Park, is a South Bronx community-based environmental organization that engages youth and adults in organic gardening, CSAs, and arts and indigenous cultural events and activities that convey a deep respect for the natural world. We learned about their alternatives to incarceration program for court-adjudicated youth, and the Bronx Hot Sauce company that sources its Serrano peppers from a network of farms and gardens across the Bronx including Brook Park. Ray also spoke to us about his role as president of the NYC Community Garden Coalition and the need for policies in NYC to protect and preserve community gardens.
See the Bronx Green-Up tip sheet for growing Serrano peppers
Our next step on the tour was the E Roberts Moore senior center run by BronxWorks, but first we walked down the street to view their Grab N Go bodega program done in partnership with CHEFS for Change healthy retail program, a youth leadership project created by FamilyCook Productions to transform unhealthy retail environments into healthier ones using youth as catalysts to make this happen. Lynn Fredericks, founder of FamilyCook Productions, explained how the program works to highlight simple and healthy snacks that can be made with ingredients from the store where the demonstration is taking place, and the participating youth detailed what was on the day’s menu.
From there we went inside the senior center for a taco lunch catered by Mexicocina (with generous toppings of our newly acquired Bronx Hot Sauce). We heard from Executive Director Eileen Torres about the many different health and hunger programs at BronxWorks, and seniors from the Center gave a short demonstration on making sofrito and showed us their vegetable garden. During lunch, Javier Lopez, Assistant Commissioner of the Center for Health Equity at the NYC Department of Health, gave a presentation about the Center for Health Equity’s mission and the work they are doing in the Bronx.
Harvest Home Farmer’s Market
After lunch we walked around the corner to the Harvest Home Farmer’s Market at St. Mary’s Park. Harvest Home is a non-profit farmers’ market manager that provides low-income communities with access to farm fresh local produce and the education to achieve healthier lifestyles. Maritza Owens, Founder and CEO, told us about the history of HHFM and how it has grown to serve more than 275,000 shoppers a year at over 20 markets around NYC, all of which accept SNAP/EBT cards, Women Infant and Children and Senior (WIC), Farmer’s Market Nutrition Coupons (FMNP), and Health Bucks. We also sampled a beet and celery salad from a cooking demo happening at the market (while a few people shopped for produce and sweets).
View the Harvest Home Farmer’s Market 2016 Annual Report
The BLK ProjeK
Our last stop of the day was Libertad Urban Farm, a GreenThumb garden run by The BLK ProjeK. Founder and executive director Tanya Fields shared her vision for food justice and economic empowerment for women and youth of color. In addition to running the farm, The BLK ProjeK organizes a buying club for local residents. The buying club operates out of the South Bronx Mobile Market, a repurposed school bus that runs on solar panels and veggie oil, and takes advantage of collective buying power by purchasing responsibly grown food wholesale from local producers to resell at affordable prices. Sadly, the day before our tour the Libertad Urban Farm had been broken into, stolen from, and vandalized. Yet by the time we got there community members had already come together to clean up, start rebuilding and painting the raised beds, and making a plan to replace the stolen items. Amanda Septimo, District Director for local Congressman Serrano, joined us to show the Congressman’s support for Tanya’s project and vowed to help advocate for better security and new fencing from the Parks Department.