By Latashia Mayze-Brimm
Grace Grows was recently awarded a $35,000 USDA Community Food Project planning grant to generate community driven solutions to the systemic food insecurities of the SE Gainesville community. Grace Grows worked with Community Project Advisors, who contributed to the creation of the grant proposal, to select fifteen (15) Community Advisory Board (CAB) members out of 40 nominations. The Community Advisory Board selection process aligns with the aim of Grace Grows Community Food Planning Project research to seek inclusive solutions with shared responsibility throughout the process.
Each Community Advisory Board member has demonstrated their commitment to lifting up the voices of those impacted the most by the SE Gainesville food desert conditions and their commitment to empower community-driven solutions. Each of these community leaders have personal connections to SE Gainesville. They bring valuable knowledge, lived experience and awareness to the Community Food Project and this organization. We are honored to be partnering with and proud to introduce to the Grace Grows Community Advisory Board:
Brenda Phillips, Linda Williams, Taketa Hall, Jennifer Revell, Latorria Mosely, Staci White, Laverne Porter-Mitchell, Nathaniel Courtney, Ryan Reid, Janet Hayes, Kiearia Williams, Carla Lewis-Miles, Drucilla Hale, Howie Ellis, and Reginald Moaseley
The addition of the Community Advisory Board to the team is a significant milestone for Grace Grows. Each member of the Community Advisory Board has expressed the need for solutions to be the focus of the project and were already creating change by giving back and being active within the community. One of our Community Advisers, and community activist, Carla Lewis-Miles says, "When we talk about what we should ask it's important that, in this short period of time we have to develop a plan, we get to a point of action. When we talk about the need, we know a lot of that so it's important that we're structuring and leading them to create the action and not just re-hash what the problem is." The stipend paid positions demonstrate the community-driven, asset-based research process, the growth the organization is experiencing, it’s adherence to ethical practices and its potential for community impact.
Grace Grows was also recently asked to lead on the community engagement for the City of Gainesville’s newly approved initiative to bring a community grocery store to East Gainesville. The first hand knowledge and diverse capabilities of the Community Advisory Board greatly complements the Grace Grows team and the organization looks forward to deepening the partnership with the East Gainesville community.
Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture as well as the matching contributions of the numerous volunteer project advisors with expertise in food systems and human services, this planning project is called “Linking the Cultural and Agricultural Roots of Southeast Gainesville Toward Better Food Access and Food Sovereignty.” Grace Grows is using a community-driven, assets-based research process that will result in an action plan for better food access and increased food sovereignty, “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally-appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”
Several factors currently affect food insecurity in Southeast Gainesville, including lack of transportation, affordable housing and financial barriers. The area is characterized by the USDA ERS Food Atlas as low-income with low vehicle access and more than ½ mile from the nearest supermarket. With many residents living in Southeast Gainesville more than 15 minutes to a supermarket by car and no large supermarkets currently located in Southeast Gainesville, the stakes are high to come up with sustainable, empowering long-term community-driven solutions. Through the planning project process, residents will explore issues, assets, strengths and possible opportunities most relevant to them.