For Project New Village, “Food Justice” is their platform for change. It is their lever for combatting inequities and institutionalized racism. Diane Moss, Managing Director of Project New Village, explains that an alternative and equitable food system would “produce different outcomes by making healthy food available to all, providing good jobs, and fostering healthy neighborhoods”. Additionally, “It would strengthen the economy by bolstering incomes, spurring business development, and contributing to equitable economic development in segregated and long-distressed neighborhoods.”
Project New Village currently manages the Mt Hope Community Garden which rose in 2011 after City Council’s deregulation of policies. Project New Village also operates a farmer’s market, People’s Produce Certified Market, the only outdoor marketplace in Southeastern San Diego that accepts and promotes food stamp/EBT use as well as free health screenings and referrals. The Good Food District takes Project New Village’s Food Justice work to the next level by inspiring collective agency and promoting food security at a neighborhood level. Project New Village is partnering with many organizations to make this happen including the Diamond Business Association, developers, Kitchens for Good, SDSU Geography Dept, City’s Promise Zone, City Councilmembers, County of San Diego HHSA, County Board of Supervisors, Assemblymembers, UCSD Center for Community Health, San Diego Food System Alliance, and many other partners.
The Good Food District is a place-making approach which builds upon the assets within the community of Southeast San Diego: vacant lots, food entrepreneurs, residents, and other partners. The Good Food District will enhance urban agriculture’s connection to economic opportunity by changing the relationship between how people sell and source their food. Project New Village is engaging with restaurants and retail outlets in the Good Food District to shift their urban agriculture production based on demand. On the consumer end, Project New Village is working to mobilize neighborhood leaders in their community to engage the community around good food while pushing back against gentrification. For Project New Village, “good food” is food that is sustainable, equitable, healthy, affordable, and accessible for all residents.
Engaging the Community: Time Banking and Canvassing
Time banking is a reciprocity-based work trading system in which hours are the currency. With time banking, a person with one skill set can bank and trade hours of work for equal hours of work in another skill set instead of paying or being paid for services. Project New Village uses time banking to engage residents in the Good Food District. People donate time in one-hour increments which can be then used as credit for food. Anyone can contribute any skill. This exchange enables neighbors to save money on services and enhances quality of life.
Organizers go door to door, leaving pamphlets or engaging in conversation to increase understanding of and improve consumer demand for good food. Project New Village also hosts the Resident Leadership Academy, an empowerment tool for creating healthier spaces through community advocacy and changing people’s relationship with food.
Addressing Racism in the Food System: Organizing Principles of Fannie Lou Hamer
“We need to call racism for what it is. We need to get to a point where people talk about it,” said Project New Village board member, Tambuzi. “The good food system is a point of entry for discussions about institutional racism.” People of color have a history of being exploited as agricultural and food workers. They have also been denied access to healthy and quality foods along with the jobs and economic opportunities these businesses bring to neighborhoods. To address disparities, we need to understand the root causes.
Having producers and consumers of food present at meetings is key to ensuring that all interests are represented. Tambuzi and Ms. Moss look to Fannie Lou Hamer as a role model. She was a sharecropper and voting rights activist who organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party in the 1960s. “Fannie taught values and good character– being conscious, capable, and committing,” says Tambuzi. “She embodies what we would want to do, Project New Village, as a catalyst for change in our neighborhoods.”
Ms. Moss emphasizes the importance of members of underserved communities getting in contact with their decision-makers about food issues. “I go to meetings where people represent constituents. We never hear from the people that struggle. People of color need to have their voice heard.” Good Food District looks for solutions that come from people and their roles for doing it better.
Ultimately, Project New Village strives to create a sacred space in underserved communities where food insecurity is all too common. Community gardens provide high-quality food and simultaneously serve as platforms for social change. While the increased vitality of any neighborhood makes it vulnerable to gentrification, The Good Food District has an embedded resilience. The initiative is founded on principals of cooperation, community engagement, and the shared values of food justice. Because its assets are found within, the power is in the people and the people are here to stay.
Reprinted from a story in the San Diego Food System Alliance. View the original story here: http://www.sdfsa.org/blog/2017/8/8/food-leaders-of-the-good-food-district-issue-1-project-new-villages-vision