Green Umbrella in the News

  • May 10, 2019 12:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: CityBeat

    May 17 is National Bike to Work Day and Tri-State Trails — "an alliance of trail advocates advancing a vision to connect and expand Greater Cincinnati's trail network" — is celebrating with the 10th-annual Breakfast on the Bridge.

    Head to the Purple People Bridge (1 Levee Way, Newport) on your bike between 7 and 9 a.m. Friday for free coffee and breakfast bites over the Ohio River including Trailhead Coffee, Taste of Belgium waffles, bacon, donuts, bagels, fruit and more.

    Ohio's "bike lawyer" Steve Magas will also be at the event and you can test-ride an recumbent, hand-crank or cargo bike from Devou Cycle in Devou Park.

    First-timers, casual riders and die-hard commuters are all welcome.

    Find more info here.

  • May 09, 2019 12:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WVXU
    By Michael Monks

    Listen to the recorded segment on Cincinnati Edition

    While the number of people in Greater Cincinnati who ride bicycles for recreation or for their daily commute is growing, our region still lacks a safe, well-connected system of biking trails and dedicated on-road bike lanes. Though there has been progress over the last decade to make our area more bike-friendly.

    According to the non-profit organization Tri-State Trails, more than 11.1 million miles were traveled walking or biking on multi-use trails around Greater Cincinnati in 2017.

    And that number could increase through efforts such as Connect NKY, a program launching this year to actively improve bike and pedestrian connections.

    Research by Tri-State Trails shows most people use the existing trail network for recreation – about 88% versus 8% for transportation – although 58% of trail users said they would commute more by walking or biking if trails and bike lanes were better connected to their place of work.

    May is National Bike Month, and joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss biking in our region are Katie Vogel with Queen City Bike; Wade Johnston (@wadejohnston), director of Tri-State Trails, a Green Umbrella initiative; Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance(CORA) President, Operations Manager at Red Bike and Co-host of The Gravel Lotcycling podcast, Doug McClintock (@dubminion); and WCPO Transportation and Development reporter Pat LaFleur (@pat_lafleur).

  • April 26, 2019 9:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Magazine
    By Mitchell Parton

    These organizations work year-round to ensure Cincinnati stays clean and beautiful.

    Earth Day typically ignites conversations regarding environmental issues and how individuals can take action. Often times, though, those conversations die shortly after the holiday passes. Fortunately, there are local groups that regularly organize events to promote the region’s conservation and sustainability efforts. These five organizations work year-round to ensure Cincinnati stays clean and beautiful.

    1. With an ambitious vision for Cincinnati to be recognized as one of the top 10 most sustainable metro areas in the nation by 2020, Green Umbrella is pushing to dramatically change the way Cincinnati’s residents and businesses think about conservation of natural resources. The organization’s initiatives include Tri-State Trails, Cincinnati 2030 District, and the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council.

    2. Bringing together nonprofits, businesses, government agencies, and individuals, the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition promotes the region’s “beauty and environmental quality.” The group will host its annual Greater Cincinnati Earth Day Celebration at Summit Park in Blue Ash this Saturday, April 27, featuring a theme of Find Your Yard aimed at teaching guests how to garden and compost in their own homes.

    3. The Cincinnati affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, has established a massive presence in the community by visiting local schools, hosting neighborhood events, and leading cleanup efforts in neighborhoods affected by illegal dumping, graffiti, and litter. The organization also runs the Greenspace program, which transforms vacant urban spaces into small green paradises.

    4. The Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati Environmental Action Groupworks toward environmental justice to improve everyone’s quality of life. In recent years the organization has partnered with Cincinnati Public Schools to advocate for LEED-certified schools, promoted against frack-waste injection wells, and organized a town hall discussion on the city’s sewer system. The group also shows films and hosts guest speakers to raise awareness about environmental issues.

    5. The Center for Conservation engages in activities that preserve and restore the region’s natural habitats and unite people and wildlife. A branch of the Cincinnati Nature Center, the organization focuses on monitoring and preserving the center and its 1,650-acre wildlife preserve. The group’s research informs its initiatives and educational outreach in ecology, conservation, and land management.

  • April 23, 2019 9:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO
    By Kate Flexter

    Recycling programs across the country are struggling to adjust after China stopped accepting most of America's recyclables last year.

    As foreign demand changes, some waste companies are scrapping recycling altogether. But at Rumpke, company officials said they're fortunate because their buyers for recycled materials are mostly in the U.S.

    Still, recycled good are flooding the U.S. market, making it less profitable for cities to recycle.

    "We are at a nine-year low today in the value of recyclables," Steve Sargent, Rumpke's director of recycling, said.

    With costs rising, Rumpke has raised fees and some Tri-State communities have cut back recycling to every other week. But for the most part, Rumpke said it hasn't felt the effects because 98% of its recycled material was already sold to U.S. buyers, mostly within a 250-mile radius.

    RELATED: Is Rumpke still recycling your paper and plastic?

    The city of Madeira is one of the few local municipalities that uses a contractor aside from Rumpke. They use Republic Services. City Manager Tom Moeller pays close attention to the way China's ban is impacting recycling in the U.S.

    "Right now, we know there's a net loss, because it's costing more to do the recycling than they're getting back in the markets," he said.

    So far, Madeira hasn't seen a price hike. But Moeller said he worries that could change.

    "If the markets continue the way they are, recyclable materials are going to cost more to both process, as well as to collect," he said.

    At Green Umbrella, executive director Ryan Mooney-Bullock champions sustainability in the Greater Cincinnati area. She worries about the potential impacts of the ban.

    "I would really hate to see recycling decline in the United States because of what's going on internationally," she said.

    Mooney-Bullock said convenience is key when it comes to recycling. She touts the success of weekly recycling pickup programs versus ones that pick up every other week.

    "When you can just do the same thing every week, it gets you into the habit and you can just form those good recycling habits," she said.

  • April 22, 2019 5:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO
    By: Christine Charlson

    CINCINNATI — Here's something to ponder next time you're waiting in line for a $5 caramel macchiato: That beverage could become a casualty of climate change.

    In January, a study published by Science Advances found that more than half of the world’s wild varieties of coffee are critically endangered. The cause is attributed to rising temperatures, deforestation and disease, which are estimated to push all species of coffee plants to the brink of extinction by the end of the century.

    If the trend continues in the short term, coffee quality likely will decrease while prices increase to offset demand.

    According to Dr. Valerie Pence, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) director of plant research, coffee plants thrive in higher elevation of tropical regions where temperatures stay cooler.

    Pence said that, commercially, two types of coffee are widely sold, with Arabica being the highest quality and also the most adversely affected by warmer temperatures. The second variety, Robusta coffee, can tolerate warmer conditions, she said, but it's far less desirable.

    In order to keep premium coffee plentiful, a number of changes must be made, Pence said.

    “Things are just getting too warm for the coffee with climate change, so farmers would either need to move to a higher elevation or look for more heat-resistant coffee genes that could be bred into the commercial coffee, and those would come from wild-coffee relatives,” she said.

    Unfortunately, many of the wild Ethiopian varieties that are resistant to rising temperatures are critically endangered, Pence noted. She said that while coffee’s wild relatives tolerate warmer weather, the plants are still disappearing due to outside forces such as deforestation and disease.

    “So there’s a real interest in trying to go out and find these species and preserve them,” she said.

    At Velocity Bike and Bean in Florence, co-owner Mark Ball said he’s aware of the threat to coffee from climate change but believes those involved in the industry will take action to ensure coffee's survival. While plants may be currently facing challenges, he said, consumers don't need to worry yet in terms of rising costs.

    “Based on where we are right now, we haven’t seen any increases in the price of coffee,” he said. “I think it’s speculation out a ways to when we’d actually see the effects.”

    At the combination bicycle and coffee shop, Ball said business is good. With coffee so ingrained in our everyday lives, he said, he thinks adjustments will be made to stave off any kind of issues before they reach a critical point.

    “I would say that demand drives the other end of it,” he said. “I have to think that efforts have already been undertaken, and if not now, they will be.”

    Indeed, those within the industry are scrambling to find solutions. Researchers from coffee giant Starbucks are focusing their efforts on breeding hybrid coffee varieties and sharing the plants for free with coffee farmers around the world .

    Bill Murray, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association (NCA), said the future of coffee depends on ambitious commitments from companies, academics, governments and, ultimately, on consumers' choices.

    “NCA’s membership knows that what is good for the planet is good for coffee and everyone who relies on it," he said. "There’s an enormous commitment to the future of sustainable coffee. Commitment from all across the coffee industry, from large fast-food companies to small micro-roasters.”

    But even if climate-resistant types of coffee can be developed, Pence said, growers still face additional challenges, because coffee can’t be stored in seed banks like other plants since the seeds don’t survive the drying and freezing process. She said one option being explored is cryogenics, where tissue cultures of the wild coffee relatives are grown into shoots and then cloned. She said the shoots can then be cryogenically frozen and stored for future use.

    “When we want to take them out, we thaw them and grow them back up into shoots,” she said. “We can get roots on the shoots and then we have the plants back, so it’s a cycle process.”

    Since coffee is a multi-billion-dollar industry, interested parties are amassing to protect this valuable commodity.

    Bambi Semroc, vice president of sustainable markets and strategy at Conservation International, said groups including conservation, local governments and industry leaders have joined forces as part of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge . She said the group’s goal is to bolster coffee health without further disrupting nearby rain forests.

    “Stakeholders are working together to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product -- to pinpoint other landscapes at risk of forest loss from coffee and to develop joint action plans with industry to improve coffee production while also conserving forest areas,” she said.

    While predicators of climate change paint a grim picture of the future, Green Umbrella communications and membership coordinator Charlie Gonzalez said he sees this as an exciting time where people can change the narrative to one of hope and opportunity.

    He said evolving technology, coupled with eco-friendly farming practices, will benefit both the planet and the economy.

    “We’re fighting against nature instead of creating a resilient ecosystem that already has the resilient benefits embedded in it,” he said. “So this kind of positive change will actually create a lot of jobs while trying to transition all these industries.”

    And coffee isn’t in peril alone. Pence said both tea and the cocoa used for making chocolate face similar challenges from warming temperatures.

    Perhaps the idea of losing coffee, tea and chocolate will help to inspire change, she said.

    “I think things like coffee are so important for humans, before we get to a tipping point there’s going to be a lot of intervention that will hopefully keep that from happening,” she said.

    “I’m really encouraged that people are taking notice of this at a somewhat earlier stage and trying to mitigate against it.”

  • April 20, 2019 5:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
    By: Ryan Mooney-Bullock, Opinion contributor

    This weekend, my son and I hiked through old growth forest at California Woods Nature Preserve. We were delighted to see native spring wildflowers in bloom. Our guide pointed out how many more there were in areas where volunteers had removed the honeysuckle. Honeysuckle leafs out early, blocking early spring sunlight from reaching the forest floor and the flowers sleeping underground. While we glanced back and forth between the flowering side of the trail and the honeysuckle-covered side, she was quick to give us reason to hope. “Don’t worry; you’d be surprised by how quickly the flowers come back once we clear the honeysuckle.” These tiny flowers hold out hope for the time when sunlight will wake them up again.

    It’s not an accident that Earth Day (April 22) is celebrated at the height of spring. As the flowers, new leaves and singing birds catch our attention, we start to notice what is going on in the natural world. All that color and chirping aside, it is hard to go a day without hearing about the challenges facing us this Earth Day – pollution’s effects on people and ecosystems, the prognosis of accelerating climate change, our narrowing window to curb it. And yet I hope. Unlike denial, hope does not seek to ignore or discredit the challenges before it. It learns about them and searches for solutions, adaptations and undiscovered angles where a creative foothold might lead to innovation that will crack the problem open.

    From my lookout as executive director of Green Umbrella, our region’s environmental sustainability alliance, I get to see the amazing work that is happening, and what is being put into motion. Greater Cincinnati is full of businesses, organizations, schools, individuals and public agencies intent on transforming our region into a place known for its green. Not just its amazing greenspace and waterways, but its systems, policies and programs that help residents, municipalities and businesses decrease their contribution to climate change and improve the health of our region.

    Just a few months ago, Green Umbrella launched the Cincinnati 2030 District, a collaborative effort for owners and managers of large buildings to halve their carbon footprint by 2030. Already, 22 members have committed over 20 million square feet to meeting the goals of the district; that makes us the 7th largest 2030 District in the nation!

    We’re now hard at work helping members identify innovative solutions that will reduce emissions from energy, water and transportation. Our city is choosing to act now, while we still have a chance to head off some of the worst impacts of climate change. The existence of the 2030 District gives me hope. It was formed by a dedicated and inclusive group of volunteers who developed the expertise, research, connections and messaging to get the initiative off the ground. It has been embraced by city government, major businesses and education and cultural institutions as a way to take bold action.

    You don’t have to be a giant property owner to have a big impact. There is something everyone can do to help our region reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and be a better place to live. Your great idea could be the next big thing that accelerates Cincinnati’s sustainability.

    If you’re looking for ways to make a change at work or in your neighborhood, the Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit on June 14 will introduce you to best practices being implemented across the Midwest. It’s also a great chance to connect with one of Green Umbrella’s seven Action Teams, groups of volunteers from organizations of all types, who work collaboratively to tackle big environmental problems.

    On a personal level, there are organizations and agencies in every county waiting to answer your questions or connect you with an opportunity to volunteer. You can be the one who frees another patch of wildflowers while they are still holding out hope.

    Ryan Mooney-Bullock is executive director of Green Umbrella, grew up playing in the creeks and woods of Greater Cincinnati and now explores them with whoever will tag along.

  • April 20, 2019 5:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Local 12
    By: Christian Hauser

    OVER-THE-RHINE, Ohio (WKRC)- Folks riding the streetcar were treated to some music and a free ride for most of the day.

    It's all part of an Earth Day celebration to try and get people to use more energy efficient modes of transportation in their daily lives.

    Tremaine Phillips is the Director of the Cincinnati 2030 District.

    "We work with commercial building owners and commercial tenants to help them achieve bold, ambitious, sustainability goals in their buildings. So, in particular we're helping them reduce their transportation emissions, as well as, their energy and water usage 50 percent by 2030," Phillips said.

    Phillips rode the streetcar a lot on Saturday. The district sponsored an earth day event and letting everyone ride for free.

    "It's kind of our way to not only encourage low-carbon means of transportation downtown but also to better interact with the public and help them understand these resources are important not only for economic development but also for the environment," Phillips said.

    Phillips talked with many of the folks getting onto the streetcar.

    "It's surprising how many folks turned out to ride the streetcar who had never ridden it before. So, just getting that experience and understanding how long it takes and where the stops occur and that really, here in downtown Cincinnati, you can get anywhere you want to go through the route on that streetcar," Phillips said.

    Meanwhile, at Washington Park, Earth Day OTR was jamming out. There was live music and food and games but also some rainy weather. Organizers were thankful for the free streetcar rides.

    "I think that's brought a lot more people down here. Additionally, we have a one-stop drop where we're inviting people to bring hard to recycle items. So, things you wouldn't be able to bring to your curbside," Kara Luggen, with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful said.

    Great Parks of Hamilton county brought some birds for people to get an up-close look at.

    There were also dozens of booths set up to teach people about using less resources.

    "Whether that's learning how to recycle right and what things we can actually stick in our curbside bins or if it's learning about ways to go zero-waste and have a compost [pile] in your backyard," Luggen said.

    The is the fourth year for the event. It's a collaboration between 3CDC and Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.

  • April 19, 2019 5:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO
    By: Chris Wetterich

    The Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar will be free to ride on Saturday in commemoration of Earth Day, which is on Monday. 

    The free rides are being paid for by sponsors, making it revenue neutral. The sponsors are Kroger, Green Cincinnati, Xavier University’s Edward B. Bruggeman Center for Dialogue, Green Umbrella and the Cincinnati 2030 District.

    City officials are working on additional sponsors for free days on the streetcar. 

    Nine acts will play on the streetcar between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

  • April 17, 2019 5:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
    By: Mark Curnutte and Byron McCauley

    In Cincinnati, 3 in 10 people don't know the source of their next meal.

    That's not because there is a shortage of food. It's because of logistical challenges, getting fresh produce, meat and dairy to people who need them most — or getting the people to sources of food — before it spoils.

    Take Todd Davis and Theresa McCalley of Walnut Hills, for example. They have an apartment on Oak Street, about three blocks from the Kroger grocery that closed in March 2017. The couple lives on a fixed income and in one of the city's most prominent food deserts.

    "I don't drive, she don't drive, and them closing the store made it a lot harder on everybody," said Davis, who walked with McCalley on a recent Friday afternoon to buy vegetables and pasta at the Freestore Foodbank's Healthy Harvest Mobile Market. It pulled into the former Kroger parking lot along McMillan Street.

    "Our building is mostly senior citizens. They can walk from their apartments for this," Davis said.

    'Rescuing' the food

    Improving healthy food options available in food deserts – defined as areas with a predominance of low-income residents who have limited access to affordable and nutritious food – is commanding a lot of attention locally these days.

    The Soup Kitchen Summit formed a year ago and brings together soup kitchen operators, major social service agencies such as the Freestore Foodbank and Cincinnati's St. Vincent de Paul Society, philanthropy organizations and corporate partners, such as the Kroger Co., to find ways to work together to rescue more food and redistribute it more efficiently and quickly to people in need.

    Nonprofit leaders in Walnut Hills and Avondale, another food desert neighborhood, are coming up with creative solutions to fill grocery spaces that are unlikely to ever be filled again by a traditional large store. 

    Community gardens and neighborhood- and school-based cooking and nutrition classes have received renewed focus as part of the solution to food deserts and poor diets and negative health outcomes that often accompany them. No idea or effort, big or small, it seems, is being dismissed or disregarded.

    "It's the dumbest problem we have on the planet," said Jeffrey Miller, chief operating officer of Cincinnati-based Last Mile Food Rescue, which seeks volunteers using apps to get food that would go to waste to big food pantries. The idea is derived from Food Rescue Hero of Pittsburgh, which was founded in 2016 and continues to be refined.

    Volunteers use an app that alerts them to a match between a food donation and a nonprofit who would like to receive it. They then "rescue” the food.

    "Hunger in Cincinnati is solvable. It's just people learning how to not throw out food," Miller said.

    The need is great. So is the opportunity.

    • 290,000 people, 80,000 of them children, are food insecure, the Freestore Foodbank estimates of its 20-county service region.
    • 6.6 million pounds of produce is distributed by the Freestore, enough food to make 27.3 million meals. Forty-two percent of its food is donated.
    • 200,000 pounds of rescued food was recycled by Our Daily Bread in 2017, employing a small staff and volunteers to turn it into 96,000 meals and 21,000 second-helpings. It is a nonprofit soup kitchen and social center founded in 1985 in Over-the-Rhine that serves a free breakfast and lunch to anyone who walks through its doors Monday through Friday.
    • 60 million pounds of food is wasted a year in Hamilton County, which has a population of 814,000. That comes out to almost 74 pounds of food wasted a year per person in the county.

    Food waste happens in many ways and to varying degrees, said Georgine Getty, executive director of Our Daily Bread.

    "It's not eating a crust of bread to forgetting about the strawberries in the back of the refrigerator," she said. "It's the vendors at Findlay Market preparing food for New Year's Eve, which ended up being really cold, and them needing to give it to us. On the largest scale, it's realizing that way too much food is sitting in the factory and is going to go to waste if they don't do something fast."

    Soup Kitchen Summit

    Getty is one of three chairs of the summit, which formed about a year ago to try to fix the problem, Getty said, "that we had all these hungry people."

    In a short time, however, its members realized "we were part of something a lot bigger, an environmental problem, how do we save food that's being wasted and get it quickly to people who need it," she said.

    Its themes are:

    Food rescue.

    Sharing the most relevant information on community resources that lead to solving what summit members see as a "logistics problem."

    Creating a system for distribution that is sustainable.

    Getting healthier food to people in need

    Several organizations in Greater Cincinnati are working to rescue and redistribute food. Among them:

    Last Mile: It recently partnered with United Way of Greater Cincinnati to tap into its volunteers who can serve as drivers, said Last Mile President and CEO Thomas Fernandez. "They have lots of volunteers. We have a shared mission to fight poverty," he said. Last Mile is targeting its first deliveries for July 2019.

    Freshmen: Through a $10,000 People's Liberty Grant from the Haile Foundation, Eban Taylor seeks to fill a need at the grassroots level. Freshmen is a community delivery service that offers grocery pickup to Avondale residents limited by access to healthy food, reliable transportation and technology.

    "Our shopping behavior in the grocery store is now starting to interact with some form of technology," Taylor said. "How do we still continue to create these experiences for people who are on assistance, and how do we make sure that they get the same experience where they are not missing out on the benefit of a convenient service model, service, whether it be online grocery ordering or delivery."

    Produce Perks Midwest: The Sharonville-based organization is a regional nonprofit that helps people in underserved communities get access to healthy fruits and vegetables. Produce Perks provides a dollar for dollar match to those using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards, which are honored by farmer's markets and grocery stores. Recipients can purchase up to $10 per day in grocery stores and $20 a day at farmer's markets.

    Bloc Ministries: In Price Hill, Bloc is working with Cincinnati State Technical and Community College to train chefs who can cook at home and get a job with those skills.

    Gabriel's Place: In Avondale, this food ministry offers a farmer's garden and cooking classes, among its other food-based programs.

    Those are smaller, community-based programs. Then there is a large-scale effort, the $10 million Zero Hunger/Zero Waste Innovation Fund, announced in February by Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. Foundation.

    Innovators sent in letters of intent on proposals to prevent food waste. Grants will be awarded that range from $25,000 to $250,000.

    The goals are ambitious:

    Accelerate donations of nutritious food that provide 3 billion healthy meals by 2025.

    Advocate for public solutions to address hunger and divert food waste from landfills.

    Achieve internally that Kroger will be a zero-waste company by 2020 and prevent all food waste within all of its stores by 2025.

    Food desert, Part I: Avondale

    Avondale has not had a grocery since Aldi closed in November 2008. Its departure left the neighborhood of 12,500 people, the largest predominantly African American community in the region – without a source of fresh, healthful food.

    A major component of the $29.5 million federal Choice Neighborhood grant of December 2012 was a grocery. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and city administration have promised a grocery in Avondale.

    Nonprofit developer the Community Builders had a fully negotiated lease with Missouri-based grocery chain Save-A-Lot. But the lease was not signed because of a pending sale of the discount chain to a private equity investor that was finalized in October 2016.

    For many years, corner stores have been the only sources of food in the neighborhood.

    Community Builders and its partners, including the Avondale Community Council, had to adjust on the fly. Development of the Avondale Town Center at the corner of Forest Avenue and Reading Road began in 2017 without a grocery plan.

    Slowly, though, it has taken shape. The vision is for a 15,000-square-foot grocer split into two spaces. Most of the space, about 9,000 square feet, will be a higher-end variety chain that will offer dry goods and benefit from professional on-site management and security. The adjacent 6,000 square feet with be a new concept that focuses solely on fresh produce, meat, baked goods and dairy products.

    "The model is the old neighborhood butcher shop," said Jeff Beam, project manager for Community Builders. "We're interested in customer loyalty, something that will establish the community-grocer relationship."

    The variety store will open first, and Community Builders is close to signing a contract on that space, Beam said. 

    The grocery is part of 80,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floors of two new buildings and 119 units of mixed-income housing – market rate, low-income and workforce rental, Beam said. A model is open. Agents are leasing apartments. Residents are beginning to move in.

    Food desert, Part II: Walnut Hills

    When the Walnut Hills Kroger shut its doors in March 2017, the area became a food desert that was particularly hard on senior citizens and low-income families that did not have a way to access the new Corryville Kroger about a mile and a half away.

    "It crushed the neighborhood," said one resident, Todd Davis, who now gets his vegetables and fruit during a two-hour time slot on Friday afternoons from the Freestore Foodbank's Healthy Harvest Mobile Market.

    Lemuel Israel is the market manager for the Freestore.

    "Warmer weather brings more people out," Israel said as a couple of shoppers moved through the trailer, which offers refrigerated milk, eggs and juice, a full display of produce and even spices, spaghetti and marinara sauce.

    "The people are heartfelt. They tell us thanks for caring and for being here."

    Neighborhood leaders have tried a number of temporary solutions to bridge the gap between the Kroger closing and the expected opening later this year of a smaller grocery tailored to community needs, said Gary Dangel, Healthy Outreach Coordinator for the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and a Walnut Hills resident.

    The smaller store, expected to be created in a 4,000-square-foot space near the former Kroger store – which was 33,000 square feet – received a major financial boost in June 2018 with receipt of a $100,000 grant from Gannett Co. Inc.'s A Community Thrives program. Gannett is the parent company of The Enquirer. Later in 2018, the neighborhood redevelopment foundation received another $100,000 grant to use toward the grocery project from the Aetna Foundation.

    Besides the mobile market, which visits Walnut Hills and nine other local food desert communities during a week – Walnut Hills is the most frequented stop, Dangel said – the neighborhood has brought in three different farmers' markets.

    "Adaption had to happen," Dangel said. "Besides losing a grocery store, we lost a social meeting place."

    The new Walnut Hills grocery space will be similar to the one planned for the Avondale Town Center. It will focus on fresh food options: produce, meat, dairy and baked goods.

    "We want it to be pedestrian scale," Dangel said. "This is a walkable neighborhood."

    New neighbors moving into Walnut Hills

    The new grocery space also will offer community events, many of them food-related, such as cooking classes. It will benefit from other planned additions to the Peoples Corner area.

    Taste of Belgium will move its corporate headquarters and employee commissary to a space on McMillan Street.

    Nearby will be the expanded headquarters of La Soupe, a nonprofit that will be moving into a 6,000-square-foot space. It will be moving from a 900-square-foot building on Red Bank Road in Anderson Township.

    Cooking classes and food-based events for Walnut Hills residents and those living in neighboring communities are part of the plan for the new space, said La Soupe Board President Mimi Dyer, "events that blur the lines between volunteers and the people who come to see us. We're moving into Walnut Hills purposely because it's a food desert."

    La Soupe's focus is on food access. Beyond its food-rescue efforts that engage chefs, its programs create community cooking events, teach cooking and bring a van into neighborhoods under a "pay-from-your-heart' model. Its food runners get leftovers to agencies such as Our Daily Bread, Anna Louise Inn and others who can use it before it goes bad. Its suppliers include Jungle Jim's, the Crossett Co., Kroger and local farmers. About 1,600 pints of soup are donated each week. It is frozen in donated ice cream containers.

    "There is more than enough food," Dyer said. "We try to make it as easy as possible to get food to the people who need it most."

    Those additions to the neighborhood can't come fast enough for nearby Walnut Hills residents Davis and Theresa McCalley.

    They appreciate the Freestore's mobile market. They walked home north on Gilbert Avenue to their apartment on the recent Friday. They carried vegetable greens, bell peppers and pasta in their bag.

    The plan was to cook up some vegetable pasta for dinner.

    McCalley smiled, looked at Davis and said, "His recipe. He taught me."

  • April 15, 2019 5:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
    By: Hannah Sparling

    Testing, testing.

    On Saturday – Earth Day OTR, a local celebration two days before the national Earth Day – you can ride the streetcar for free. Take it to Washington Park to hear some reggae music. Even catch a live concert on the streetcar if you ride between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

    It might seem like a one-off promotion, but it’s also a sign the city and new interim streetcar director Travis Jeric are testing the waters to see how the Cincinnati Bell Connector performs when riders don’t have to pay $1.

    Supporters have been asking the city to make rides free since shortly after the streetcar’s debut in 2016. They point to Kansas City, which has a streetcar line similar to ours except it’s free to ride.

    In March, the RideKC Streetcar got 211,456 riders.

    The Cincinnati Bell Connector, by comparison, got 35,481.

    Cincinnati’s streetcar launched on Sept. 9, 2016. There have been good days and bad, but overall, ridership has been a disappointment, far short of projections and dropping year-over-year.

    Before the line was launched, advocates predicted it would get 3,200 riders a day.

    In reality, it gets about half that.

    But, free days have in the past shown good results. There were five free days in November and December this past year, and the streetcar averaged 3,422 riders on those days. That’s more than 2,000 riders above the average for those months.

    Jeric, the new streetcar director, said the free rides on Saturday are one step toward potentially making the system permanently free.  

    He is also finalizing plans for more free rides throughout the summer. Details on that could be released as early as Tuesday.

    “You don’t just go diving into a pool, right?" he said. "You take a step, test the waters, see how it goes.”

    It's not as simple as it might seem. Making the streetcar permanently free would require renegotiating the contracts between the city, which owns the streetcar, Cincinnati Metro, which oversees it, and Transdev, the company Metro hired to run it.

    Plus, if the streetcar is free, that means no revenue from fares. So, as it stands right now, each free day requires a sponsor to make up the cost.

    In March, the streetcar brought in $23,161 from fares – less than 9 percent of the overall revenue for that month and roughly $5,000 short of what was budgeted. 

    Sponsorship cost varies depending on the day, but Saturday’s free rides, for example, sponsored by The Cincinnati 2030 District, cost $3,268. That includes a $714 fee for increased security.

    “Every last dollar helps to provide a very safe, secure system, which we have,” Jeric said. “It’s going to be another very tight budget season, so if you get rid of that revenue, you put yourself in a hole. And you then have to figure out how to make it budget neutral once again.”

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