Shana Black, CEO:
What started out as a local project about food access and insecurity in a few local communities has ballooned into a much larger story across Northeast Ohio.
At the end of 2019, Black Girl in the CLE decided to partner with WOVU 95.9 FM and the magazine, Edible Cleveland to tell the story of food insecurity in the Glenville, Midtown, Kinsman, and Central neighborhoods.
The premise was that nationally and internationally, Cleveland is known as a food destination or a food city, yet many of the residents closest to our renowned restaurants live in food deserts.
Read: Cleveland Ranks Seventh Place in Time.com’s ‘Best Food Cities’ in America survey (2015)
Read: Why Cleveland’s Food Scene Is Low-Key One of the Country’s Best and Only Getting Better (2017)
We chose the neighborhoods based on recent news events involving grocery stores: The opening of the new East Side Market in 2019, and the opening of Dave’s in Midtown. Both of these stores received a lot of press due to both the positive and negative ripple effects that were created in the surrounding neighborhoods concerning food access.
The project, called “The Real Cleveland Food Experience,” was to consist of resources and community meals for residents in the target neighborhoods and a new podcast, CLE Food Stories.
After months of meeting and planning, we were all set to have our first community meal at Glenville High School but then…. the Coronavirus.
As news began to spread about Coronavirus, questions of safety in bringing people together for a community meal began to circulate. When Governor Dewine began limiting gatherings and closed the schools, our meals had to be canceled.
At first it felt like the project was dead, but then the question of food access began to amplify, with questions circulating on social media about school kids who might go hungry without their free and reduced lunch or breakfast.
Suddenly our story about a few neighborhoods in Cleveland spread across Northeast Ohio as school districts in the suburbs and rural areas began creating solutions to provide food for their students. We also saw restaurants making the decision to provide free food.
So, what’s next?
Over the next few months we will continue to share stories with you about residents and communities affected by food insecurity, as well as the people who are working hard to provide food. We’re also going to look at the impact food insecurity has on other areas such as education, transportation and general health.
How can you support or be a part of the project?
First, continue to read and share all of our stories on food insecurity. Also, check out our podcast CLE Food Stories on Spotify, Apple Podcast or Google.
We are collecting stories to help us all understand the issue of food access. If you have a story to share, or have gone through a time where affording or accessing fresh food has been tough, let us know.
While I can’t speak for all of the partners on this project, my hope is that by collecting and spotlighting stories, one of the readers might be moved toward working to find a new solution, or wanting to take action to help our neighbors.