Housing, Food and Community

OVERVIEW

The goal of our work group is to conduct analysis of the current food retail environment, housing environments, resident shopping locations and patterns of transportation use, and demand for/viability of community gardens and other potential land use options.

Framework for Analysis

To the extent feasible, we recommend employing a fully participatory process that utilizes only participatory methods. Not only will this ensure that drawn conclusions and recommendations are grounded in residents’ lived realities and expressed desires, but it also creates a sense of ownership, control, and empowerment and can foster greater community collective efficacy and cohesion around the topics examined. We recommend that the California Endowment conduct these analyses in a manner that builds resident capacity to replicate and modify for future purposes.  We also recommend that the next iteration of the Food, Community, and Housing Environment Survey be developed with the assistance of community residents, including selection of items and framing them with their guidance. Again, not only will this ensure the collection of more meaningful and relevant data, it provides a capacity building opportunity in which students and residents can transfer skills.

We place a special emphasis on engaging youth in the development of instruments (group discussion, survey) and in the completion of the assessments, especially Photo-voice and Behavior/Route Mapping. In addition to the value of simply capturing youth perspectives, build skill, capacity, and interest among youth, it will also indirectly serve to influence knowledge and critical consciousness levels among peer networks. While the overall goal is to complete the above assessments, the larger frame is to execute this in a manner that uses processes and methods and creates deliverables/outputs that can be more readily applied to larger social and political action strategies around food, community, and housing environment. The potential for synergistic effects generated among youth and their engagement within school bounds and among parents/guardians is promising.

The following recommendations are based on key informant interviews in which residents outlined their most pressing community concerns; a small-scale food, housing, and community environment neighborhood survey; North Richmond site visits, and communications with North Richmond community-based organizations including Community Housing Development Corporation, Urban Tilth, Neighborhood House of North Richmond, and Shields-Reid.

Youth Engagement and Training
TCE should consider funding youth-organizer training for NR youth. Community organizing and youth engagement are two key pillars for TCE’s Building Healthy Communities work. Prioritizing youth training opportunities could greatly facilitate wider youth involvement and community support, and would help ensure community capacity for action is being grown across generations.

Enable and Enhance Community Voice
TCE should consider supporting the development of community-based media platforms, including social media tools and applications, to create an avenue through which residents can critically engage each other and their local government. NR residents could benefit greatly from efforts that bridge the media gap and enable their voices to be heard at will. Such efforts could prove useful in reducing social and political isolation, and in enhancing political accountability.

Invest Financial Resources in Studio
TCE/UCB should consider making financial resources available to students completing studio projects. Information gathering and relationship building requires extensive field work. Much of this field work relies heavily on resident willingness to share their valuable time and expertise. Incentives should accordingly be considered as a standard part of the field work toolbox. Additionally, discussion/focus groups, and other participatory activities and events, like Photovoice, Asset Mapping, and youth forums require resources (e.g. materials, food etc.)

Address Vacant Land and Associated Blight
Provide technical assistance to community organizations addressing vacant land and blight issues in North Richmond. TCE can also partner with local agencies to ensure codes enforcement regarding illegal dumping, which has been identified as a persistent problem from North Richmond residents. Explore creative temporary and permanent uses for vacant governmental land within North Richmond that will support the community’s vision for development. Collaborate with local groups already envisioning and developing productive uses of vacant land.

Increase Healthy Food Access

  • Currently there are no full service grocery stores within North Richmond, and only one corner store exists. In fact, during the four months of this studio course, one of the two remaining corner stores closed, further decreasing food options within the community. According to preliminary survey findings, many North Richmond residents shop for groceries in nearby communities such as San Pablo and Pinole, which means North Richmond dollars are leaving the community. While there are a number of urban agriculture and community garden programs within North Richmond whose benefits extend beyond food production (Urban Tilth, Lots of Crops, Sunnyside OrganicsCURME), these projects cannot meet the food needs of all North Richmond residents, and must be augmented with at least a small fresh food market.
  • Residents also expressed interests in seeing more farmer’s markets in their community, and recognize them as a place to strengthen neighborhood relationships. New funding streams such as California Fresh Works offer financing opportunities for low-income California communities, and with the proper technical assistant, potential North Richmond food retailers could be eligible for this funding. This CA FreshWorks Fact Sheet is an overview to the new California Fresh Works fund. In addition, Policy Link’s Grocery Store Development guide offers in-depth information about grocery store development.
  • Corner Store Conversions are another model that the California Endowment, in partnership with CBOs can explore to increase the amount of fresh food at Sunset Market, the one remaining corner store in North Richmond. Corner Store Conversions provide incentives for food retailers to devote shelf space to fresh foods by funding freezer space, often a barrier for small corner stores that want to stock fresh food options. Corner store conversions have a particularly high impact in low-income neighborhoods where healthy food options are often extremely limited. The Healthy Corner Store Network’s ‘Health Corner Stores Q+A‘ is a useful guide for communities seeking guidance about corner store conversions.
  • West Oakland-based food justice organization People’s Grocery operates a bulk delivery service called the Wholesale Hookup, which could be a temporary remedy to food access issues in North Richmond. Partnering with a local CBO, churches and other community anchors could serve as delivery sites at which families could collect a weekly supply of healthy food. Local CBOs could lead efforts by beginning outreach at Verde Elementary, or delivering fliers to parents and youth at Shields-Reid, for example. While this is not a sustainable long-term option, a healthy food delivery scheme could fill the gaps in the interim.
  •  Based on our preliminary survey findings, North Richmond residents would like to have a full service grocery store within walking distance of their community, be it a small, medium, or large retail outlet. Residents also express interests in seeing more farmer’s markets in their community, and recognize them as a place to strengthen neighborhood relationships. New funding streams such as California Fresh Works offer financing opportunities for low-income California communities, and with the proper technical assistant, potential North Richmond food retailers could be eligible for this funding.
  • North Richmond residents have an advocate in the Richmond Food Policy Council as well. The next meeting will take place Monday, May 21, at 6:00 pm at the Richmond Community Foundation: 1014 Florida Ave., Suite 200 in Richmond. This is another bridge that TCE can build.

Click here to download our recommendations. Included in this document are recommendations for future UC Berkeley North Richmond studio classes as well.

Click here to download a longer document that includes our recommendations, materials relating to participatory research methods (an overview, a Photo Voice guide, parent consent forms, etc.), and our housing, food, and community environment survey tool.

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