from Green Opportunities
Green Opportunities, a nonprofit, community development corporation, has been awarded a $800,000 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant to create jobs and reduce food deserts in Asheville’s riverside communities.
“These efforts will sustain themselves long after the grant monies are utilized, employing at least 34 people by 2017,” says GO Co-Founder Dan Leroy, “and we’ll see decreases in poverty and food deserts in these underserved communities in long-term.”
HHS has defined a food desert as a census tract with a substantial share of residents who live in low- income areas that have low levels of access to a grocery store or healthy food retail outlet.
By addressing food insecurity issues locally with local partners, Green Opportunities will launch three complementary “social enterprises” over a five-year period. These enterprises will create at least 34 full-time jobs for mostly low-income people, while improving access to fresh, affordable, and nutritious foods in low-income neighborhoods along the French Broad River.
The social enterprises launched by this project will encompass three integrated initiatives:
Community Gardens and Greenhouses – Working with numerous partners, Green Opportunities will enhance existing community gardens and greenhouses at Pisgah View Apartments, Hillcrest Apartments and the W.C. Reid Center. This work will include improving soils and building greenhouses to enable year-round food production of a rich assortment of foods, and then harvesting and selling to a wide variety of clients.
Community Kitchen – Green Opportunities and its partners will develop a Community Kitchen that utilizes nutritional locally produced food to offer community clients healthy meals prepared from scratch. The Community Kitchen will hire graduates of GO’s Kitchen-Ready culinary training program and use foods grown at the community gardens and other local farms to provide low-cost meals to groups most impacted by food insecurity issues, such as youth and seniors.
Food Distribution and Sales – Working with local partners, Green Opportunities will employ innovative and traditional strategies to sell food produced and prepared through the above enterprises, including a possible community grocery store in the Southside neighborhood. The goal of the store would be to sell a full variety of locally sourced food products while providing jobs to previously unemployed neighborhood residents.
“This is a game changer for us,” says Leroy. “We believe that these social enterprises will be a powerful means of providing sustainable and much-needed jobs, services, training and healthy food to the Asheville neighborhoods that need them most.”
GO is a member of an emerging national association of community food programs called Catalyst Kitchens that supports programs in over two dozen communities across the US. Socially responsible, food-related businesses are proving to be important economic engines in cities like Washington, D.C. (DC Central Kitchens), Winston-Salem (Triad Community Kitchens) and Milwaukee (Growing Power).
By growing, preparing, and selling healthy local food throughout Asheville’s riverside communities, Green Opportunities will maximize its potential to address local food insecurity and economic development issues.
According to GO Co-Founder DeWayne Barton, “it’s time to work together to build networks in our communities that promote opportunity and entrepreneurship around urban agriculture.”
About Green Opportunities
Green Opportunities (GO) is an Asheville-based nonprofit dedicated to improving lives, communities and the health of the planet through innovative green job training and placement programs. GO is committed to empowering low-income neighborhoods in Asheville by preparing residents for well- paying jobs, completing hands-on projects that make these neighborhoods safer and more sustainable, and linking the residents of these neighborhoods to jobs and other community resources that lead to greater empowerment.