In SoCe, we have the good fortune of being able to partner with other organizations, such as the SCNA (South Central Neighborhood Association), the SCIA (South Central Improvement Alliance), and Legacy Ministries. Legacy has a branch called Garden Works. I have been working with Garden Works since January of this year to do food outreach in SoCe.
As I reflect on what food outreach has come to mean in SoCe, I am looking back on the goals that were on the food outreach job description: respond to the needs and desires of our neighbors and to implement programs for the ongoing food empowerment of SoCe. We perceived the food concerns in our neighborhood to be the food desert (since our neighborhood grocery store closed in the summer of 2014), financial constraints, lack of transportation, and lack of culinary knowledge or exposure. We went door-to-door and asked for input from neighbors. They were not too concerned about the food desert, but seemed interested in getting together for some cooking events. We decided to host gatherings such as potlucks, make & take cooking nights, and spice tasting opportunities. These evenings were fun and we met new people and learned of some amazing cooks in the neighborhood. However, there seemed to be some missing element, something else we should be pursuing.
In recent months, since blending Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) with food outreach, I have learned that the outreach I am being led to cultivate is actually to facilitate ways for neighbors to reach out with their amazing culinary skills! This means finding ways for one neighbor to utilize her wonderful cookie-baking skills, for a high school student to share her love of baking cupcakes, or for my new friend one street over to be able to cater some SoCe Life events to share and showcase her delicious Cuban cooking. It also means sharing with her that my dream for her is to host Cuban cooking lessons. She was so excited to make my dream come true – we have the first cooking lesson date and menu set! ABCD strikes again! Food outreach in SoCe is about uncovering the culinary passions that are already here among my neighbors and helping them to share those passions.