Allison Blansfield, Farm and Youth Program Manager, The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation
The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation (TEC-CDC) and Urban Tree Connection (UTC) have come together to develop Neighborhood Foods (NF), an innovative and holistic community food production and distribution system. This dynamic model empowers disadvantaged youth from low-income neighborhoods to run an array of food-focused programs, from urban farming production, to value-added food product development, to distribution and retail through farm stands, farmers markets and a low-income CSA program. The result is a complete local food system that drives revitalization of high-need neighborhoods by 1) increasing access to fresh and healthy foods in designated food deserts and 2) developing a local food economy that accelerates small food businesses and retains food dollars in the immediate region.
Most notably, NF is operated with a core goal of intensive youth development. The model empowers local youth to develop the necessary personal and professional skills to themselves run NF programs – positions of real responsibility that empower young people to become true change agents in their own communities. NF supplements this hands-on experience with deep classroom education and training in business education, the urban agriculture and food sector, and leadership and business professionalism and etiquette. Our highly-trained staff provide support during all activities. With this foundation in place, NF succeeds in building generations of youth driven for career success and invested in the revitalization of their own communities.
Health Hurdles in Philadelphia: According to a study by The Food Trust, Philadelphia has “the second lowest number of supermarkets per capita of major cities in the nation.” 5 This directly corresponds to higher levels of consumption of take-out food and decreased consumption fresh produce, leading to profound public health implications.6 Significant rates of diet-related diseases: 59% of adults are overweight or obese, 38% are diagnosed with high blood pressure, and 22% exhibit high cholesterol.
Youth Development Hurdles: The poor quality of public school administration has failed to provide students adequate preparation for higher education and the workforce. Coupled with limited job opportunities, these conditions result in generations of urban youth that lack the resources needed to develop into community leaders.
NF addresses these ingrained trends in parallel; our model re-engages youth in practical, hands-on education and training, and leverages those young leaders to directly combat social and economic barriers at the root level through the development of a complete local food system.