UNC REX Healthcare Food Pantry

Added on by Erin White.

In the fall of 2018 UNC REX Healthcare, in Raleigh, became one of only a handful of hospitals nationally to open a patient-centered food pantry. Developed in a central, visible hospital location with the solid support of multiple hospital departments, the pantry provides food and local food resource information for in-patients who screen positive for food insecurity. (*Food insecurity is the condition of not knowing where your next meal is coming from, and being at acute risk of hunger.) The pantry is also seen as a first tangible step in answering the question: “What is the role of healthcare systems around food access and nutrition?”

Community Food Lab joined the UNC REX Healthcare team in early summer 2018 to provide a strategic systems approach to project development. We brought our project management skills to help drive the day-to-day progress of a multi-disciplinary team, and we brought our food systems and strategic thinking capacity to help the pantry maintain an aspirational attitude towards change. In other words, we stewarded the big questions while also tracking through the logistical tasks needed to open the pantry on time. Our final product has been a report capturing the process of developing the pantry, recommendations on measuring success, and ideas on next steps for REX in building greater food access and health connections across its entire community.

The motivation to start this pantry emerged from the Hospital’s food and nutrition department. Having seen a similar pantry at Hennepin Health in Minneapolis, REX’s Culinary Director began asking how REX could take on a pantry project that builds off of their leading edge, award-winning food program, and lead to a new teaching and demonstration kitchen. Important early support came from the hospital’s Foundation, from the Care Management department, and from the Operations staff. The pantry soon emerged as an opportunity to build effective collaboration around long-term health issues associated with food access. Community Food Lab was instrumental in facilitating a broad coalition of partners, and helping steer the process towards effective in-house ownership.

The UNC REX Food Panty’s ribbon cutting event was covered by several local news stations. Take a look:

The News & Observer

CBS 17

ABC 11

Project 40: A Vision for Regional Food Planning in NC

Added on by Erin White.

Community Food Lab is convening food system thinkers, designers, and students to ask big questions about the future of food in NC and build pragmatic, strategic directions around food systems and regional economic development.

The people of the Triangle spend billions of dollars on food every year, but there are no effective ways to channel that massive spending to NC’s rural areas and small towns - areas in dire need of economic opportunity. Project 40 is an emerging vision to change that, by radically shifting how the Triangle sources its food and spends its food dollars.

What if 40% of the Triangle’s food came from regional NC sources by the year 2040? (Currently that figure is closer to 1%)

What if local and regional governments, research institutions, private equity, healthcare systems, and non-profit funders joined behind our farmers and food businesses to make a radical shift towards resilience, economic growth, and equitable opportunity across our rural - urban spectrum? This is the 40 x 40 core idea.

By taking a design and planning approach for new coalitions and new strategies, Community Food Lab and partners are opening a new regional conversation about the future of food. The land is there, the market is there, and the need is there. Project 40 provides a visionary spark to connect the dots and pull together our world-class food thinkers, food business leaders, and agricultural resources around a common goal, where food brings opportunity to an entire region.

We will be pushing out ideas and next steps through the end of 2018 - stay connected through #project40 and by joining our project mailing list, below.

Urban Agriculture Pilot at North Hills

Added on by Erin White.

Through much of 2016, Community Food Lab assisted one of Raleigh’s premier mixed-use districts in identifying and defining urban agriculture opportunities. Urban farms, community gardens, and edible landscapes all inspired new thinking that re-imagined food growing as a driver of meaningful visitor experience, wellness, and placemaking.

North Hills, an outdoor mixed-use shopping and residential district of midtown Raleigh, NC, already hosts a weekly farmers market, seasonal plant and tree markets, and a number of restaurants that feature local products. Building on this experience and recognizing the growing trend in local food, North Hills sees the impact urban agriculture could have on its evolving role as an innovative, vibrant destination.

Through a multi-stage consulting and planning process, Community Food Lab began the North Hills Urban Agriculture Pilots by envisioning four goals to drive urban agriculture:  

  • Foster community 
  • Support thriving businesses 
  • Build sustainability 
  • Spark innovation 

These four goals supported a high-level vision and phased development plan for urban agriculture at North Hills, and resulted in connections between an interested farmer with land at North Hills. With the consultation of Community Food Lab, North Hills continues to explore options for an urban agriculture approach composed of demonstration gardens, urban farms, community gardens, and edible landscapes.

When implemented, the Urban Agriculture Pilots at North Hills will enhance this district’s value and reputation as an innovative regional leader in mixed-use commercial and community-focused development.

Strathcona County Urban Agriculture Strategy

Added on by Erin White.

Community Food Lab partnered with Intelligent Futures, a Calgary-based firm of planners, designers, and urbanists to develop an Urban Agriculture Strategy for Strathcona County, Alberta, a mixed urban and rural community just outside of Edmonton. As part of an agricultural master plan developed by the County, urban agriculture was recognized as a critical first step towards greater participation, awareness, and capacity on agricultural issues for residents throughout the County, not only in rural districts. The County already had a general sense of key next steps, but needed assistance developing a detailed plan that negotiated a number of controversial local issues around small livestock, chickens, and beekeeping.

In response, the directions of this Strategy emerged from an intensive community engagement process that allowed the community to be reflected in the plan, and also to raise agricultural awareness through the planning process itself. Through thoughtful dialogue and engagement the controversial topics were resolved with approvals from community members as well as elected officials and County staff. The resulting Strategy outlines Strathcona County’s vision for urban agriculture, sets goals to manifest this vision, and defines strategy areas with roadmaps of actions to achieve these goals.

Community Food Lab co-led the Strategy development and action planning, contributed to community engagement efforts, and acted as the urban agriculture and food system specialist throughout the project.

Read the Strathcona County Urban Agriculture Strategy in its entirety here. The Urban Agriculture Strategy is the first of six strategies to be developed as a part the implementation of Strathcona County’s long-term Agriculture Master Plan, adopted in June 2015.

Church on Morgan: Participatory Planning for a Rooftop Garden

Added on by Erin White.
roof schemes 1-01.jpg

In early 2016, Community Food Lab joined members of the Church on Morgan to plan a roof garden on their new building in downtown Raleigh. Community Food Lab led a four-month participatory planning process, during which Erin White facilitated conversations among Church on Morgan congregants around the vision for the rooftop’s physical space, mission, and activities through a process of discussion, feedback, and idea development. Supporting the collective work, Community Food Lab engaged structural engineers to propose and estimate costs for the imagined roof garden. 

The core idea of the project is to literally express the vision of a “Garden in the City,” sparking connections and creative thinking about the role of the Church in Raleigh’s vibrant urban community.

Beyond simply a space for growing food and flowers, the Church’s rooftop garden will engage Church members in gardening activities, connect with the neighborhood through a new aesthetic presence, and engaging the broader community around fresh produce and food products. Through these activities, the rooftop garden will educate youth, build tangible community connections, and inspire new thinking about the Church’s impact in downtown Raleigh and along the Raleigh Food Corridor.

With the garden concept and report in hand, the Church has put the roof garden project on hold as it continues to weigh the feasibility and impact of the project.

Triangle Farms For Food: Strategy and Action Plan

Added on by Erin White.

Working with the Conservation Trust of North Carolina and a host of project partners, Community Food Lab has helped produce an innovative land conservation strategy for the Triangle region of NC. The strategy targets agriculture and local food systems as important sources of economic leverage and long-term community support for protecting the remaining open spaces of the Triangle. The region is growing rapidly, and the richness of the area's farmland and farm culture is ultimately at stake if effective solutions can't be developed. Community Food Lab helped design a planning process that included the input from many farm and farmland experts, the creativity and first-hand experience of many community members, as well as innovative GIS modeling and data analysis. Community Food Lab co-authored the plan, designed many of the final images, and produced the final report.

Our hope is that this model of regional farmland planning through an agricultural and local food lens is a replicable approach for other locations, and that our Triangle strategy is carried forward by project partners to create meaningful impact in land planning, local food economies, and public awareness around the importance of farms and farmland. 

Find the final plan and supporting documents here.  The project was funded in part by the Triangle Community Foundation.

Durham Public Schools HUB Farm

Added on by Erin White.

The Durham Public Schools HUB farm is a 30-acre site supporting experiential farm, garden, and outdoor education for students throughout the Durham school district. As a mixed educational resource, the Farm is a model of flexible programming and activity that uses its landscape of fields, ponds, and woods for education at all grade levels and alongside many community partners.

In creating this vibrant farm and outdoor education site for Durham Public Schools, we worked with a collaborative team of partners and advisors to build a phased site plan, a network of supportive and invested stakeholders, and initial grant funding to support key site improvements. In close collaboration with Landscape Architect Katherine Gill of Tributary Land Design, Community Food Lab led a multi-pronged design approach to early planning that combined education and curriculum opportunities, creative funding strategies, landscape design, and diverse community engagement.

Over 18 months, we worked with partners to create a stable advisory board, initial site management team, and action plan designed for incremental growth of the project. In the two years after our involvement, the HUB Farm has continued to grow in size and reach. A collaboration with an NCSU Design/Build studio culminated in an innovative floating classroom. Up to 300 students per week visit the Farm, engaging in all aspects of the site. The Farm runs a CSA box program and operates a seasonal on-site farm stand. Plans are in place to obtain GAP certification for the Farm, which would allow produce to be used in DPS cafeterias. 

With initial funding from DPS Career and Technical Education to create hands-on STEM education, this visionary project has transformed an unused 30-acre school property into a K-12 learning farm; a whole-district hub for garden and outdoor education and a regional model for innovative farm-to-school initiatives. 

Raleigh Food Corridor

Added on by Jennifer Truman.

Along with multiple partners, stakeholders, and like-minded organizations, Community Food Lab is working to create a shared vision for a vibrant local food corridor defined by its participants. Corridor can be imagined as a civic engagement project, a food justice initiative, and a catalyst for the local and regional food systems.

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Durham Food Hub Development Study

Added on by Erin White.

Working for Durham's Reinvestment Partners, this collaborative project with Jennifer Walker of Poiesis Design and Planning determined the feasibility of developing a 4500sf building into a community-based food hub. We are continuing to provide strategic support, consultation on the pre-design, interface with the project Architect, and help connect the Food Hub to other food system efforts on the block

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Mapping Food Phenomena, Raleigh

Added on by Erin White.

We began researching food phenomena in Raleigh in the summer of 2013. We were looking for specific instances and events of food in city neighborhoods that start to teach us about how food exists in those settings, specifically along a two-mile long, three-block wide stretch of Raleigh.  We photographed and mapped every instance of food that we came across. 

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Express Mart Remodel

Added on by Erin White.

We helped generate a key idea that helped motivate the project and shaped the outcome: that the neighborhood would benefit if local food principles were integrated throughout a multi-block revitalization effort. Beyond this concept, design effort stayed minimal and looked for cost-effective choices to improve the street character, increase safety, respect the residential neighbors, and present a new face to the community.

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