Bringing More Than Just Food to NYC Neighborhoods

From by Clare Algozin
Bringing More Than Just Food to NYC Neighborhoods

Just Food works to create better food system by empowering and supporting community leaders in their efforts to increase access to fresh, local food, especially in underserved New York City neighborhoods. Their efforts focus on launching projects that help both feed and educate communities as well as advocate for a better food system in and around NYC.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Silan Akgul, Communications Associate at Just Food.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Silan Akgul (SA): We provide training and technical assistance to community members to help them launch projects like farmers' markets and CSAs, provide education in fundamental culinary and urban agriculture skills to their neighbors, and advocate to make their corner of NYC a healthier and more sustainable place to live and eat.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

SA: In 2014 alone, Just Food helped nearly a quarter million New Yorkers to access fresh, sustainably grown food in their own neighborhood.

That same year, we supported a farmers' market network of 27 community-run markets including five brand-new markets that Just Food trained. We also supported a network of 110 CSA (community-supported agriculture) groups in 2014, which provided fresh fruits and vegetables for more than 45,000 New Yorkers of all income levels and ensures that local farms thrive. Just Food's farm-to-pantry program connected eight regional farmers with 49 emergency food providers and pantries throughout the five boroughs.

The annual Just Food Conference in 2014 united more than 700 food justice advocates.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

SA: Just Food hopes to begin the journey of evolving into a Center for Sustainable Community Food Projects. This Center will be a one-stop resource offering comprehensive services that will support our current partners as well as a broad spectrum of emerging community projects to increase access to fresh, local food. The Center will provide basic food system training; support the development of project leadership teams; train project managers, advocates, and culinary and agriculture educators; coordinate advocacy efforts; and develop project infrastructure. Just Food will develop programming that will increase the organization’s ability to train and support community food project leaders and educators in their efforts to educate their neighbors about food-related issues and policies that impact the health of their communities.

Over the next five years, Just Food’s goal is to support the launch of more than 100 new community food projects, reaching at least 25,000 new people, while maintaining our support of our 200-plus existing community partners. In total, these efforts will result in more than 200,000 New Yorkers gaining access to fresh, local, sustainably-grown food each year.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

SA: The easiest and most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system is eat local, seasonal, sustainably-grown food, and support the food projects in your community such as farmers' markets, CSAs, co-ops. etc. Eating local food supports regional farmers and decreases your carbon footprint.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

SA: Individuals can become more involved by assisting an existing food project such as a CSA or shopping at a community-run farmers' market. You can also volunteering at or attend the annual Just Food Conference, usually held in late winter/early spring each year.

Download the 2015 Good Food Org Guide HERE.