This is the story of the brand new Boulevard Food Coop and UUCA’s role in its creation.
It’s the story about how UUCA members – with a lot of good will, much enthusiasm, some good connections and savvy leadership – helped poor residents of the Old Fourth Ward start feeding themselves.
It began a few years ago … with some milestones along the way. The Food Coop which kicked off on Thursday, November 20 was a very important step! Here’s how it happened …
Promise the Children, UUCA’s advocacy and action group, had been thinking about children and hunger for several years. The congregation’s serious involvement with hunger began three years ago. PTC member Beth Davis had a question: “Almost all the children we tutor at Hope-Hill Elementary get free breakfast and lunch at the school. What do the children eat in the summer?”
From that question grew a two-year project to get half of Hope-Hill students into summer enrichment programs. Those summer programs provide FOOD, as well as learning and a safe environment!
UUCA networked together a group of non-profits and churches that helped the Summer Enrichment program achieve good success. And UUCA became a strong supporter and partner of Operation PEACE, which is one of the best of those After School and Summer Enrichment Programs.
About a year ago, Promise the Children organized UUCA members for a Thanksgiving Food Drive. Remember last Thanksgiving? About 125 member families participated. We raised money, families donated food, and many helped box it up and deliver it to our friends at Operation PEACE … We delivered – literally – a TON of food to families.
About the same time PTC member Joy Borra began asking a similar question of UUCA’s partners in the Old Fourth Ward (O4W) … and especially of Kwanza Hall, the city councilman for the district. “How many people in the Boulevard Corridor regularly don’t know where their next meal will come from? What can we do about it?” she asked.
Kwanza decided to start a year-long “Working Group on Hunger in O4W,” and all those partners began to look for answers. A long-term solution required long – term, community – wide action … And that’s where UUCA member Annie Archbold volunteered to go to work.
Annie is passionate about food … a real FOOD ACTIVIST! Annie served on the working group’s steering committee. She served as a vital “go to gal” for Kwanza’s overworked staff. Annie did everything. And she gave wise counsel from her long experience at the CDC on hunger issues.
The project that the Hunger Working Group agreed on was to begin a Food Coop. They modeled it on the very successful Georgia Avenue Coop that had existed more than 20 years. It would take a lot of work … but with the right support, the Food Coop would empower poor people to feed themselves.
Another UUCA member had the key to ultimate success. Rob Ohara works for the federal government’s regional VISTA Volunteers program. He heard about the O4W project. “Why don’t you apply for two VISTA Volunteers to do the organizing work that will be needed?” Rob suggested. “There are already VISTAs working with the O4W’s urban gardening program, Truly Living Well. It could be a perfect match!”
The end of the story is that everything came together … with a lot of good will, much enthusiasm, some good connections and savvy leadership …
The new food coop is launched!
Here’s what VISTA Volunteer Sara Thorpe wrote for Kwanza Hall’s Facebook page last week:
Earlier this evening, 15 families from District 2’s Boulevard corridor launched the first resident-run food co-operative for low-income families in the neighborhood. The launch of the co-op was one of Kwanza’s top goals for the 2014 edition of his Year of Boulevard initiative.
The Boulevard Food Co-Op is the result of a year of careful planning and monthly working group meetings in partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Truly Living Well Urban Agriculture. The founding families of the co-op come from the Bedford Pines community and the Atlanta Housing Authority’s Cosby Spear Highrise community.
Members pay a one-time $5 membership fee and a $3 charge for each food distribution, which takes place on the first and third Thursdays of the month at our host site, Fort Street Memorial United Methodist Church.
Unlike a typical food pantry, the Boulevard Food Co-Op is a member-based initiative, designed to foster community among its members over time. Members organize and supervise every aspect of the twice-monthly food distribution, from collection of fees and arrangements for child care to the equitable distribution of food and produce among members.
As the founding members become comfortable with their responsibilities, the Boulevard Food Co-Op will expand, welcoming new members and creating new cohorts in 2015. For more information about the Boulevard Food Co-Op, contact co-op coordinator Sara Thorpe: firstname.lastname@example.org.”