no secret that fresh fruits and vegetables are the staple of any
healthy diet. But in urban areas like Milwaukee, fresh quality produce
can be hard to come by. Supermarket chains tend to avoid central city
neighborhoods where crime is high and incomes are low, resulting in
In recent years
though, several community organizations and initiatives in the
Milwaukee area have begun working to improve the local food production
and distribution system. Their goal is to make healthy food more
affordable and accessible through community gardens, urban farms,
local food stands and green space.
vibrant local food system is vital to sustaining the local
community," says Matt Howard, environmental sustainability
director for the City of Milwaukee.
Here is a list
of five community efforts leading the way in stimulating the local
economy and increasing access to healthy food.
inception 19 years ago, the Center for Resilient Cities has been
involved with many community-based food system projects, from fund
raising support to technical assistance to lending guidance on
sustainable food policies. The nonprofit organization, which practices
sustainable community development, has offices in Milwaukee and
sustainable, healthy food system is a critical component of a
resilient city," says Executive Director Marcia Caton Campbell.
"Environmental, economic and social conditions directly impact
the food supply."
CRC is involved in the implementation of ReFresh Milwaukee, the city’s
10-year sustainability plan. "We are conducting research on the
city’s regulatory environment and Milwaukeeans’ ability to access
fresh, nutritious, affordable food," explains Campbell.
Garden, a 2-acre urban farm located on Garfield Avenue between 20th
and 21st Streets in Milwaukee’s Lindsay Heights neighborhood, can
trace its roots back to the late 1970s, when Milwaukee County gave
residents the go-ahead to start a community garden following the
failed expansion of the Park East Freeway. Today, the garden serves
more than 100 local families of nearly every ethnic, economic and age
gardens are a means to helping city folk reconnect with the natural
environment and one another, and they serve as a springboard for
neighborhood development," says garden director Venice Williams.
Alice’s Garden in 2006, Williams has introduced a variety of classes
and programs like the Garden Mosaics Earn and Learn, a youth program
designed to break down cultural barriers and teach work-readiness
skills. The garden also offers family programming with topics like
creating a family food budget and preparing healthier meals.
In 2009, Alice’s
Garden underwent an extensive renovation project, including soil
remediation, drainage enhancements and the construction of a covered
Garden is about more than just gardening," says Williams.
"It’s about instilling hope in the neighborhood."
One of the key
players in helping develop a healthy, affordable, equitable food
system, the Milwaukee Food Council began nearly eight years ago as an
ad hoc group of community members, professionals and government
officials. According to founder Martha Davis-Kipcak, the council is
committed to building a healthy food system that is ecologically
sustainable, economically vibrant and socially just.
community-based food system connects people to the source of their
food and creates a thriving food economy," says Davis-Kipcak.
Since 2007, the
council has had a hand in actively shaping local food policies and
programming in Milwaukee. The MFC is responsible for the 2010 honey
ordinance allowing residents to keep bees and the 2011 eggs ordinance
giving people the ability to raise chickens for eggs on residential
property. The council also worked with the Environmental Protection
Agency to identify potential legal barriers to urban agriculture.
The local food
movement isn’t only about making healthy food more accessible in
underserved neighborhoods. By introducing urban agriculture programs
in some of Milwaukee’s poorest areas, the city is seeking to address
other problems like unemployment and urban decay.
Enter HOME GR/OWN
Milwaukee, a city-led effort launched in 2012, tasked with turning
Milwaukee’s vacant lots into a source of food and jobs.
"We want to
transform these vacant lots into community assets," says HOME GR/OWN
program manager Tim McCollow. "Our goal is to empower residents
and spark new economic opportunities around local, healthy food
production and distribution."
area food and farming-related programs, HOME GR/OWN is already making
progress. Last year, five urban orchards were planted around the city’s
north side, including a long-vacant lot on Locust Street between 1st
and 2nd Streets.
Conservation Group began in 2000 as a grass-roots effort to drive out
crime and reclaim the Walnut Way neighborhood, an area bounded by
North Avenue, Fond du Lace Avenue, 12th Street and Walnut Street.
later, residents have successfully transformed vacant lots into
productive gardens, installed 40 rain gardens and planted a fruit
orchard. In January, the group broke ground on the Innovations &
Wellness Commons, a two-phase project that will serve as a hub for
economic development, healthy food options and wellness services.
envision phase one as a healthy food oasis," says executive
director Sharon Adams. "The environmental impact of the project
will be a catalyst in restoring vitality to the North Avenue