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Community Impact: Fighting Toledo's Food Deserts

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Dear Stakeholder:

As a Co-Founder of Center of Hope Family Services, I am proud to send you our latest update.  We are grateful for your ongoing support in the work we do. Throughout our organization, we focus our diverse skills and abilities on the issues facing our community.  Your support gives us the strength and energy to make an impact.

This month's update focuses on two themes that Fletcher Word wrote about last month:  community impact and our shift to being a convener.
Economic Disinvestment and Food Deserts

Much of what we talk about is our programs, where we work person-by-person in our community and help people develop the skills they need to thrive.

We've made terrific progress with this approach. To really address a problem, sometimes you need to take on some of the root causes that are causing people to need our services in the first place.

For example, decades of disinvestment in communities of color has caused many problems, one of which is the lack of healthy food options.  The data is clear on this topic. "Food deserts" cause higher rates of diabetes and heart disease and poor nutrition impedes the ability of young children to learn.
Shift to Convenor and Collaborator

To address this challenge, Center of Hope convened the Equitable Access Alliance of Toledo (EAAT). Recognizing that long-term systemic change comes from the grass-roots of the community, two coalitions were created:  in the Englewood neighborhood and the Junction neighborhood.
Center of Hope Does its Homework

We wanted to quantify the impact that food deserts are having on our community. To assess community experiences and perceptions of food access in the Junction and Englewood areas of Toledo, Ohio, the EAAT Survey
was developed by Dr. Joseph Drake at the University of Toledo. The EAAT Survey was administered by Center of Hope staff, in-person, and at community events.

Measurement Resources (a  Columbus research company) was contracted to analyze the survey results.  Here is what they showed:
  • Among EAAT survey respondents, 18% reported that they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat.
  • Cost has prevented 71% of the respondents from purchasing fruits and vegetables and from purchasing meat or fish.
  • About 30% of respondents reported that cost prevents them from buying fresh produce more than half the time.
  • Most respondents’ solutions included an increased availability of stores that sell basic meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables (77%) and less expensive, healthy food options (72%).
A Community Moving Toward Solutions

These groups have been meeting and working toward a consensus on how to improve access to healthy food in their neighborhoods.  The story of the initiative to date can be seen in the video at the top of this email.

We have engaged a national consultant who has the experience to help us cross the next bridge in our journey, which is to identify specific interventions for the impacted neighborhoods and then take the necessary steps to implement them.
Last word on root causes

I mentioned earlier in the email that the cause for food deserts was disinvestment in communities of color.  Our movement looks at food deserts as the first step in a larger goal of attracting new investment to communities of color in Toledo.  With thriving commercial corridors serving our neighborhoods, we will have a platform upon which thriving families can stand for generations to come.
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Donor Impact

Regardless of whether we and convening, collaborating or providing direct service, the progress we make happens with the support of our donors and community. We want you to know that we are grateful and we are committed to continuing to engage you as we expand our impact to help families survive and thrive.

Rev. Donald Perryman, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, Center of Hope Family Services