Coalition Keeps Fresh Food Growing, Glowing and Flowing
As Brooklynites take their food more seriously, a new borough-wide initiative hopes to create positive changes in food security and availability by uniting concerned eaters under the Brooklyn Food Coalition.
Though still in its developing stages, the Brooklyn Food Coalition (BFC), is creating neighborhood based groups to address more local issues, and uniting these groups under a larger food council, which will uses its collective power to affect changes for the local groups as well as for the entire borough.
The BFC is an outgrowth of the Brooklyn Food Conference, an event held in May at which thousands of concerned eaters, urban farmers, and dieticians gathered to discuss that state of food in Brooklyn. The coalition is an outgrowth of the conference, as several organizers and attendees wanted to find a way to continue the energy of the weekend event.
“We didn’t want the energy of the Conference to die,” said Erica Lonesome, a coalition organizer. “People are so accustomed to talking about things and then not doing anything afterwards, and so the coalition is our way of doing something about it.”
Launched in July, the BFC is currently working to establish the larger committee by holding planning meetings in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn. At each meeting, concerned residents discuss the food-related issues that face their neighborhood, singling out which ones are the most pressing, and setting a neighborhood agenda. Meeting attendees also select two volunteers to represent the neighborhood at the borough-wide food council, although these appointments are, for the moment, temporary, as the BFC is still in a state of development.
A meeting for the Greenpoint/Williamsburg chapter of the BFC was held last Thursday at the Church of the Messiah. Nearly two dozen concerned residents came out to discuss food issues in the neighborhood, and though many of the attendees would admit that the area had made great strides in providing easy access to locally grown and fresh foods, there are many pressing issues still facing the Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
The meeting’s attendees came from a variety of food backgrounds, and as such, the discussing covered quite a bit of ground. The success of the McCarren Park green market and the many neighborhood CSA’s was acknowledged, as was the growing number of rooftop and community gardens.
“There is a lot of energy going on around food stuff,” said Maggie Dickinson, a Greenpoint resident and co-organizer of the local BFC meeting. “I got involved because I want to get people together, address bigger food issues and improve food security. Everybody should have access to affordable fresh food.”
Of special interest to the group was the generation and ethnicity gap between the newer residents of North Brooklyn and long-time ones. Despite the need for greater outreach for gardening, farming, and soup kitchen efforts, these same projects were considered to be essential ways to bring the disparate factions within the neighborhood together for a common cause.
“People are interested in where their food is coming from, how it grows, the climate aspects of growing and the social justice of people who work in the food industry, said Lonesome. “If you can think of a social justice issue, it involves food consumption in some way.”
“The purpose of these meetings is to find out what people want,” said Dickinson, who was selected as one of the two local representatives to the BFC’s borough-wide council.
One of the meetings outcomes was a decision to catalogue the existing community gardens, as well as determine locations in the area that could be used for gardens in the future. “We want to find out what land is available, who owns it, and what can be done with it,” said Lonesome.
Another issue that concerned the group regarding the continued creation of more community gardens is the quality of soil in North Brooklyn. Attendees discussed ways to work around the possibility of contaminated soil in certain neighborhoods by focusing on above ground planters and rooftop gardens. “Really, any urban area is going to have toxins,” said Lonesome. “Any time people are planting, it’s a good idea to test the soil.”
“There is stuff like this happening across the country,” said Lonesome.
The Brooklyn Food Coalition will continue to reach out to residents of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn through continued community meetings, programs and events. The borough-wide council is scheduled to meet in October. For more information, visit brooklynfoodcoalition.ning.com.