The food system includes all forces that impact the way we eat. It involves all steps required to grow, harvest, process, transport, procure, sell, prepare, and consume foods as well as manage food waste.
We hope for a food system that helps people meet basic food needs with dignity; balances supply and demand of fresh, affordable, and healthy foods in neighborhoods; and promotes community empowerment and ownership of local food systems. A community-driven food system should be:
- Equitable and fair.
- Connected and complex.
- Open, engaging, and evolving.
- Vibrant and abundant.
- Devoid of structural racism.
- Nutritious and enriching.
Community driven food justice is achieved when:
- Communities have ownership over and/or leadership of food systems change.
- Households have financial strength.
- People have fair access to affordable, fresh, and healthy foods.
- Communities are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.
- People have freedom, agency, and dignity over their food traditions.
Nutrition equity is defined as freedom, agency, and dignity in food traditions resulting in people and communities healthy in mind, body, and spirit.
We recognize that the food system as it is does not work for all. It unfairly burdens people of color and those with low-income. It yields low wages and unfair conditions for food workers. It also results in vicious cycles of food insecurity, limited access to and ownership of full-service grocers, nutrition inequity, and chronic disease among racial and ethnic minorities and people with low-income.
These injustices are maintained by structures of racism and historical disinvestment in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. We are committed to centering the lived experiences of those most affected by food system injustices in the Nourishing Power Network to combat these injustices.
Shifting the food system to fairness will require community-driven, coordinated, collaborative, and responsive actions at five potential leverage points.
These leverage points are Fair Access to Affordable Fresh and Healthy Foods, Nourished Neighborhoods, Neighborhood Thriving, Economic and Community Development, and Social Connectivity and Policy Engagement.
Sample actions for each of these leverage points are:
- Adopt wasted food reduction policies and practices within organizations, businesses, or the home with the goal of enacting city or county policy to ban food waste over the long-term and creating pathways for this food to be used for good.
- Increase funding for programs to subsidize costs of fresh and healthy foods for people at risk for chronic disease (i.e., produce prescriptions, Produce Perks).
- Expand access to high speed internet.
- Remove barriers for people who were formally incarcerated to qualify for living wage jobs to experience upward mobility.
- Get neighbors out to vote and ensure voters are aware of issues that directly and indirectly impact fair access to fresh and healthy foods through voter registration, voter education, and reducing barriers on voting day.
Learn more in the Menu of Actions for Community Driven Food Systems Change.
The Nourishing Power Network aims to engage individuals who live, work, or have roots in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Euclid, Cleveland Heights, and/or Garfield Heights. These cities were selected because they have some of the highest rates of food insecurity in Cuyahoga County.
The Nourishing Power Network is led by a community-academic partnership including the Swetland Center for Environmental Health at Case Western Reserve University, the FARE Project, and Neighborhood Connections.
The Nourishing Power Network will be evaluated using case study methods. This means the research team will look very closely at the experience of a few individual people.
The research team will use social network analysis to map out these individuals’ existing social networks and how they change over the course of the study. The research team will also track and assess the reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and the possibility of long-term implementation of the Nourishing Power Network.
Together, these evaluation methods will help us explore and answer the following research questions.
- If we cultivate welcoming spaces for community building, will it spark and expand food justice in Greater Cleveland?
- If we support community-led action with financial and technical resources, will it tip the food system to fairness?
- If we root and grow community ownership of local food systems, will it promote equity, vibrancy, and holistic health?
This is implementation science. This means that the research team has developed and will carry out a time-limited program, in this case the Nourishing Power Network, and then measure if and how it helps support and create a fairer and more just food system that works for all.
Through this study, we want to learn if social networks and access to resources can tip the food system to fairness. The research team wants to gain a deeper understanding of these relationships and will be collecting data through interviews with Nourishing Power Fellows and Advisors on how people and organizations are connected, how people engage with the network, and their experiences within the network.
We are also collecting information to describe and summarize the different types of food justice initiatives led by the community. This will come from ideas generated by fellows, projects submitted to the fund, strategies used to promote networking, and initiatives of the advisory council. We want to learn and share how different approaches are adapted to fit each community and what environments and resources help create and support lasting change. Together, these will help paint a picture of the variety of approaches that can be put into action to create a food system that works for all. These ideas and efforts will be described by our team to help others learn about bold and fresh ways to promote food justice within Black, Latino/a/x, Asian, and Indigenous communities. We are NOT collecting any medical or dietary data as a part of this study.
There will also be opportunities during the study for Nourishing Power Fellows and Advisors to learn more about the study design and research process, review and reflect on the data and themes emerging from the interviews and social network analysis, and become part of the team that will write and submit articles about the Nourishing Power Network for publication.
We aim to build bridges between the power that communities bring to the table – such as local know-how, wisdom, and political will -- with the power that organizations bring to the table – such as funding, marketing, and existing programs. We hope to bridge these distinct skillsets to root and grow a food system that works for all.
There are different opportunities in the Nourishing Power Network based on your experiences, interests, and capacity. The Advisory Council is for more experienced food systems leaders and its members will guide the Fellowship and the Fund. The Nutrition Equity Fund is for people who have a food justice action plan ready to go and are looking for funding. The Food Systems Change Fellowship is for people with new ideas who are looking to develop them further. Because we want to engage as many people as possible, members of the Advisory Council will not be eligible to participate in the Fellowship and receive funding from the Nutrition Equity Fund during their term on the Advisory Council. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to participate in the networking events over the course of the project.
No, unfortunately, you cannot participate in more than one component (Fellowship, Advisory Council, or Fund) at a time. For example, current Advisory Council members cannot apply to the Fund, and Fellows cannot apply to the Fund during the Fellowship period.
This does not include the Networking events. Networking is open to all.
We have been developing a large outreach database of people known from our existing work and engagement with new individuals in the food system. We’ve tried several avenues from cold calling to social media. We are also having one on one meetings that are in-person, over the phone or virtual. Our next strategy includes contacting community newspapers, and we will be on foot in strategic locations in the five targeted cities including organizations run and led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Once the Advisory Council is selected, we will also rely on its members to continue to spread the word about our Nourishing Power Network.
We will be making a public announcement of Nutrition Equity Fund funders in early 2023.
Yes, there will be quarterly networking opportunities where you have the chance to share ideas, make connections or sponsorships with folks outside of the Advisory Council.