Green Umbrella in the News

  • April 06, 2020 12:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO

    By: Pat LaFleur

    Tri-state Trails offer point of relief from social isolation amid COVID-19, but be careful

    GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — On a typical Wednesday afternoon, one might find a few people walking through Phyllis Stewart's neighborhood in Green Township, but the streets would be mostly clear of foot or vehicle traffic.

    But these aren't typical times.

    Stewart, who has made walking through her neighborhood a routine over the last eight years, said now she sees a lot more of her neighbors out taking walks at all times of the day.

    "Tons," she said. "And not only do I see them doing that, but when it was really warm the other day, they were sitting in their respective driveways, in their lawn chairs -- 6 feet apart -- just having a great time."

    Before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, Stewart's daughter, Katie, would sometimes join her on her walks through the neighborhood. But now -- to avoid risk of spreading the disease-- they can't take those walks side-by-side anymore.

    Instead, the two women take those walks "together" by phone, and what used to be a once-in-a-while tradition when they both could find the time has become a central part of their daily routine.

    In fact, they feel closer despite the distance they have to maintain.

    Instead, the two women take those walks "together" by phone, and what used to be a once-in-a-while tradition when they both could find the time has become a central part of their daily routine.

    "We give each other pep talks when it's necessary," Stewart said. "We calm each other down. It's like we're just more in sync than we were before."

    'I can't pay attention to anything else'

    On Kate Stewart's end of the line, she's usually walking through Burnet Woods, on one of the 90-acre park's walking trails. After a large portion of the city's workforce began working from home or not working at all to comply with a stay-at-home order in place throughout Ohio, she said she's noticed an uptick in people hiking through the city park.

    "It's really crowded. There are tons of people fishing, which I never would have considered, but it seems to be really popular," she said. "There have been a lot more people out than normal."

    Trail use across the Tri-State has surged in recent weeks, according to Wade Johnston, executive director of Tri-State Trails.

    "In this moment of crisis, people all over the world are turning to the outdoors, like public green spaces and trails and parks, to find a moment to disconnect and to experience nature," Johnston told WCPO.

    His organization keeps year-round traffic counts on multiple walking, hiking and biking trails throughout the region. He said some have seen a 10% increase in traffic year-over-year versus March 2019. Other trails have seen a 65% surge.

    Johnston said the urge to get outside is a natural reaction to the "cooped up" feeling that comes with a stay-at-home order.

    "We're all in this harsh reality right now, and I think that, for so many people, getting outside has offered an opportunity to experience something that's not a screen and to get some physical exercise," he said.

    For the Stewarts, it's created a sense of closeness that they said wasn't there before -- at least not in the same way. Phyllis Stewart said that talking over a distance by telephone meant their conversations have gone deeper than they might have before in person.

    "I can't pay attention to anything else because she's in my ear," she said. "If she’s talking to me, a lot of times I’m washing dishes. I’m looking at my computer screen. She’s doing the same thing. This way we’re just one-on-one with each other. That makes it deeper to me."

    If large crowds continue to congregate at local parks and trails, authorities might feel compelled to act.

    "Most of the trails are 12 feet wide, and if there’s a lot of people out there on a sunny Saturday, it’s going to be hard to maintain a social distance passing somebody or interacting with someone," Johnston said. "If we continue to see groups congregating, the police are going to break things up and potentially parks could shut down."

    City officials quickly had to respond to reports of large crowds of people gathering at multiple city parks the first week into Gov. Mike DeWine's statewide stay-at-home order. That response included blocking vehicular traffic into some of the city's most popular parks, including Burnet Woods.

    "I was surprised that it wasn’t more crowded today because typically there are people everywhere," Katie Stewart said. "There have been a lot more people out than normal."

    Johnston views this as an opportunity for people looking to get outdoors to find a place where others might not have explored.

    "Now’s a great opportunity to experience a trail that you’ve never been to," he said. "You can find a trail that’s maybe new to you in a destination that’s maybe a little less trafficked, and that’s a great way to ensure that you’re going to be somewhere that’s going to have fewer people and allow you to maintain social distancing."

  • April 01, 2020 12:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO

    By: Paula Christian

    We ask local leaders how COVID-19 may change us ... for the better?

    CINCINNATI — In the face of a pandemic, when living generations are at their most anxious and vulnerable, it is only natural to search for wisdom in the words of others.

    When we emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 outbreak, how will these difficult times have changed us? And could those changes be for the better?

    WCPO posed these questions to a range of well-known regional figures. Their responses were careful observations of life and how it may be forever different.

    Manuel Iris, Cincinnati Poet Laureate

    I have the perfect certainty that getting over this crisis will not be easy, but it will pass. We will grow, we will learn from this as a city, as a society, as humans in general.

    In a few weeks or months, we will be able to come out of our houses and hug each other. We will want to hug each other: we will reconsider the importance of a hug. We will talk more to our neighbors, and every human will be less of a stranger to all others: We will all have something in common.

    After being forced to talk to each other through our phones and computers we will, hopefully, never forget again the value of face-to-face conversations. We will value more the time we spend with others, especially with our elders. Our grandparents will again be the center of our collective memory … we will value wisdom again.

    And I hope that we won’t quickly forget everything we will have learned from this experience.

    Candace McGraw, CEO, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

    The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is as strong and resilient as the community we serve. We have weathered many ups and downs together and will do it again.

    In the last two decades at CVG, our team has dealt with the Comair strike, the terror attacks of 9/11, Delta’s dehubbing, and many years of rebuilding the airport business—all of which strengthened our resolve and allowed us to improve all aspects of our business.

    No one expected a pandemic in early 2020 to so disrupt our lives, our region, or our world. While the number of passengers at CVG has dwindled in recent weeks, our cargo carriers are busier than ever ensuring our supply chains are running smoothly.

    This is what our community and people are all about—determination in the face of adversity and a resolve to emerge with a renewed focus on success. We have been battle-tested; we will meet the challenge head-on; and this community … will figure out a way to be stronger for it.

    Louis Langree, Music Director, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

    When this difficult situation will be finally over, people will crave the opportunity to be together again.

    Music lives in every human being. It is part of us, around us, within us, because it is the expression of life. Of our life. It has the incredible power to heal and the ability to elevate our humanity.

    After weeks of isolation we at the Cincinnati Symphony are eager to share the power and the beauty of music together again.

    In the meantime, we'll be safe and strong.

    Shakila Ahmad, Emeritus Board Chair, Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati

    The reflection we are forced to face will lead many to be more mindful of the power of faith, family and community, whether together physically or in spirit.

    Those of us in healthcare are already being compelled to leverage telemedicine for everyone’s safety. This must and will be strengthened and grow … to serve more people with less resources, including those in remote, desolate areas of our country to get them the healthcare they deserve.

    I see that many, including me, will find a renewed value of family time … and also learn to enjoy the simple things in life together. Just about everyone I am in close touch with feels we will be more self-resilient and better cooks when we come out on the other side.

    We must start now by leading with empathy towards our constituents, our sick, our elderly and our own families as we have all experienced something life changing together.

    Ryan Mooney-Bullock, Executive Director, Green Umbrella

    We are connecting to nature as … a source of respite from the stress of isolation and bad news. I’m hopeful that people are really looking around while they are outside … getting to know the plants and animals around them as spring unfolds. I’m hopeful the connections we are building now to the natural world will get baked into our values as a society.

    Farmers are reporting increased sales and some are scaling up to meet the demand. Entrepreneurs are finding ways to get products directly to consumers even when typical farmers markets are not an option. I think this new appreciation for purchasing local will stick with us. We are recognizing that diversified supply chains, whether for medical equipment or food, are necessary to get us through uncertain times.

    We are learning what it takes to slow down a global crisis. Slowing climate change also requires sustained effort. I’m thankful that the decline in emissions we are seeing now will help us edge closer to being able to meet the necessary carbon reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts. We can all row together if the consequences are grave enough.

    Lewis Kamrass, Senior Rabbi, Isaac M. Wise Temple

    Prior to COVID19, ours was an age of deepening individualism when people mistrusted institutions, leaders, science, and religion.

    In this sudden and stark reality now faced, isolated and alone, we find ourselves hungering for connectedness and missing all that we took for granted in a life lived with others. I would like to believe that our present hunger for connectedness will not suddenly diminish when we are again permitted to safely return to a life with others.

    I would like to believe in a post-COVID 19 world, we will not only venture out of our homes, but also turn from our cocoon of self-interest to celebrate community rather than self, interdependence rather than independence.

    And when we do, we will find our hunger for meaning and purpose suddenly nourished, because we will more easily turn to one another. We will be changed. And so perhaps, will we then change our world.

    Sister Sally Duffy, Co-Chair, Child Poverty Collaborative

    Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. Thankfully we are witnessing leaders in every sector who are revealing character by their integrity, moral courage, self-sacrifice, taking accountability, resilience, their hope and realism, calling us to be our best self through unifying behaviors.

    We are witnessing the power of nature and possibly a foretaste of the effects of climate change unless we treat our global home with love, justice and mutual respect.

    Right now we are totally dependent on a number of workers who continue to work in the fields, serve as first responders, local reporters, workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, certified nurse assistants … and laundry workers in hospitals. Forty percent of the people in the United States have less than $400 dollars in reserve.

    I fill up with tears every time I hear and sing “I am Proud To Be An American” and the National Anthem. We will get through this because the character of our nation will be revealed.

    John Morris Russell, Conductor, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra

    I’m looking forward to that time in the very near future - a time when we gather together for an event that we might have otherwise taken for granted.

    A ballgame. A concert. A performance.

    And there we all are, friends and neighbors, as brothers and sisters.

    And that special magic that happens when we are all together in one place celebrating our shared humanity.

    Karen Bankston, Adjunct Professor, University of Cincinnati College of Nursing

    The arrival of COVID19 has changed the very fabric of how we live our daily lives and how we are thinking about our future. I believe that we have an opportunity to re-envision our “next.”

    Specifically, do we really need to work 60 hours a week and ignore our families? We have discovered that we can be productive within a “normal” workweek, allowing time for recreation and relaxation. Due to physical distancing, we have reintroduced ourselves to our family, friends and neighbors. These newfound relationships can add to a sense of inclusiveness perhaps, that has been eluding us as a society.

    I believe we have learned through the unemployment that was caused through social distancing … that we have created a society that has been designed for a middle class that no longer exists. Our largest industry is the service industry, vital industries such as healthcare along with hospitality, travel and social services.

    Given that, we must acknowledge that there is a need to redefine the prioritization of central resources, as well as seriously look at the educational systems (specifically how they are funded) to match the workforce needs going into the future.

    David Mann, Cincinnati City Councilman

    The pandemic reminds us all just how vulnerable we are as human beings. In this age of virtual reality, modern medicine and the conceit of our species that we are in control, the power of a lowly virus requires us to pay more attention to our planet and how we treat it.

    Because we are being reminded afresh just how fragile human life really is, I think we are all looking inward more to our faith and our family. When the current crisis is over, I expect we will continue to think differently about our relatives and about the spiritual side of life.

    In Cincinnati, I see tremendous unity with a strong commitment to join together to maintain the fabric of our community. As the virus threat passes, we will take great local pride in the shared commitment we showed among ourselves. We have lived up to our city’s motto – juncta juvant – which means “strength in unity.”

    Maybe for the first time I truly understand the impact which the Great Depression and World War II had on my grandparents and parents. They were always very attentive to saving and being careful about spending money. They understood that our world was not necessarily as stable as we might assume.


  • March 13, 2020 12:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Vote Yes on Issue 7 for a Greener, Cleaner, Safer Region

    By Ryan Mooney-Bullock and Andy Holzhauser, on behalf of Green Umbrella's Board of Trustees

    Hamilton County voters have an historic opportunity to help our region become cleaner, greener, safer and more equitable by voting yes on Issue 7, which would increase funding for the region’s bus system and make other infrastructure improvements. Our organization, Green Umbrella, has historically refrained from making endorsements in ballot issues, but our board of trustees felt strongly enough about Issue 7 to endorse our first-ever ballot measure.

    Green Umbrella is dedicated to promoting regional sustainability through collaboration and collective impact. We work to provide access to healthy environments, reduce the effects of climate change, and improve the sustainability of both landscapes and the built environment. An increase in funding to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which operates the region’s bus system, will support many of our priorities:

    • Cincinnati is one of the country's 25 most-polluted cities, according to the American Lung Association, due to high levels of particulate pollution. The pollution increases asthma in children, damages lungs, increases deaths from cardiovascular disease and infant mortality. A regional transit system that offers alternatives to single-driver commutes will improve air quality.
    • Carbon dioxide emissions in the Cincinnati region have risen 40 percent since 1990, and are up 18 percent per person in the same period, according to Boston University's Database of Road Transportation Emissions. Transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gases, and most of those emissions come from driving. Coupled with smart growth and other options, an improved bus system can help lower CO2 emissions in the region..
    • Pedestrian injuries and deaths from auto crashes are increasing in Ohio and due to factors such as the rise of SUVs and distracted driving. A recent study from the Ohio Department of Transportation found that Hamilton County had the highest rate of pedestrian crashes per capita in the state. Car trips are associated with more injuries to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as more fatal and severe injuries, as compared to buses. Mass transit is also associated with lower obesity rates.
    • Sitting in traffic costs the average commuter in Cincinnati 60 hours and $834 per year. If even a fraction of the people now driving by themselves to work take the bus instead, traffic improves for everyone.
    • Only 10 percent of the region’s jobs are accessible by a bus ride of an hour or less, which limits options and the economic mobility of residents who cannot afford a car. A more robust bus system would increase opportunities across the region.

    These are some of the regional challenges that could be addressed with the passage of Issue 7, but there are opportunities to capitalize on as well. Cincinnati has become a leader in sustainability over the past decade. The Cincinnati 2030 District, a project led by Green Umbrella, encompasses 267 buildings whose owners have committed to cutting water and energy use and emissions from commuting in half by the year 2030. The Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council is increasing food security and cutting food waste, and Tri-State Trails is building a network of trails and bikeways to support active transportation and healthy lifestyles. The City of Cincinnati recently launched the largest municipal solar farm in the U.S., and its pace of 2% annual reduction in greenhouse gases puts it on par with climate leaders such as Paris and Oslo.

    The passage of Issue 7 will help efforts to increase the region's environmental sustainability and resilience, improve its quality of life and extend equity. We full endorse it and urge you to vote yes on Issue 7 for a greener, cleaner, safer Cincinnati.

    --

    Ryan Mooney-Bullock is the Executive Director of Green Umbrella. Andy Holzhauser is the President of Green Umbrella's Board of Trustees and a Partner at Donovan Energy.
  • March 10, 2020 11:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier

    By: Nikki Kingery

    ArtWorks's First Project of 2020 Will Light Up this Cincinnati Neighborhood

    ArtWorks’ first project of 2020 will feature a series of light-based installations aimed at enhancing neighborhood safety and celebrating cultural heritage.

    Artists Calcagno Cullen and Matthew Grote have been selected by an Avondale public art steering committee to create Switch On Avondale, a series of interactive public art installations along the new walking and bike trail behind the renovated Hirsch Recreation Center on Reading Road. The project is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

    “This work of creating more public art in Avondale is so important,” April Gallelli, Avondale Development Corp. community organizer, said in a news release. “The residents want more art that is reflective of our community’s rich culture and values, and we’re thrilled that a national funder is investing in this work. We look forward to what these artists partnering with the Avondale community will bring to life.”

    ArtWorks is a Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that employs youth to create art and community impact. Cullen and Grote will be working with four ArtWorks youth apprentices, ages 14-21, who are Avondale residents to create these installations, which are being created this spring and installed in the summer.

    Cullen is an artist and founder and director of Wave Pool, an arts center in Camp Washington that aims to be a catalyst for social engagement. Her design, “What We Need to Hear,” includes inspirational quotes from neighborhood residents made from neon flex material that will be installed along the walking trail.

    In 2019, Cullen held “Cincinnati’s Table Dinner” at the Contemporary Arts Center where diverse populations in Cincinnati working on immigration issues came together to find solutions. As part of this project, Cullen will be bringing Cincinnati’s Table to Avondale, where a home chef will be featured and words of affirmation for the project will be collected.

    Grote is an artist and designer, and his work ranges from furniture to painted murals. Most recently he contributed artwork to the HUEmanity projection and Urban Campsite for Blink 2019. He has spent 10 years painting murals and creating art installations, most notably as part of the program at Buffalo’s Albright Knox Art Museum. Previously, Grote spent four years working in environmental graphic design at Kolar Design, where he specialized in graphics and murals for corporate clients to express their values in visual form.

    His design, “Sunflowers,” will featured solar powered lights on posts that are inspired by kente cloth designs. Each flower will have a center that will designed with community members from Avondale.

    ArtWorks is partnering with several community organizations on the project, including the Avondale Community Council, ADC, Cincinnati Police Department, Cincinnati Public Schools, Cincinnati Recreation Commission and Green Umbrella.

    NEA awarded ArtWorks a $50,000 matching grant in 2019 to support artist-led public art installations in this historic neighborhood in 2020.

    Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is the matching sponsor for the project with additional support from the SunTrust Bank Foundation.


  • March 10, 2020 10:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Fox 19

    By: Ashley Smith

    New NKY Bike Repair Stations Aim to Promote Cycling in Greater Cincinnati

    CINCINNATI (FOX19) - If you need a bike tune-up or you’ve got a flat tire that needs fixing, there’s a new place to go in Northern Kentucky — the Kenton County Library.

    “The library is such a pillar of the community as a destination and a resource,” Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston said. “And now you can come to the library and fix your bike!”

    Johnston was excited to cut the ribbon Tuesday evening on the new bike repair station.

    “Many times cyclists come to a destination and are looking for a place to park and have to chain up to a tree or a sign post,” Johnston said. “And in many cases it’s not really a secure place to lock up.”

    Devou Good Foundation helped fund this project along with installing more than 1,000 bike racks in the Greater Cincinnati area. That includes 500 bike racks in Covington, 100 in Newport and 1,000 in Cicninnati.

    “The installation of the bike repair stations and bike racks plays into this larger goal that we’re working on to make Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky more bike friendly," Johnston explained.

    The bike racks and repair stations will hopefully encourage more people to ride around the Tri-State.

    “Our region is really beautiful to explore by a bike, and I would encourage you to do it, because you get a chance to experience the world in a different way."

    You will also find a bike repair station in Newport just before going across the Purple People Bridge. There are plans to expand these bike repair stations into Cincinnati.

    “We hope that by having more facilities, that people feel safe riding, and people will make the choice to bike rather than drive for every trip,” Johnston said. “So we can get cars off the road and encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle.”

    These stations can be used for repairs or a simple tune up.

    Johnston says if you can’t fix your bike at one of these free stations, stop in your local bike shop for some professional help.


  • March 08, 2020 11:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: The River City News

    NKU Campus Honored for LGBTW, Tree Work

    Northern Kentucky University received a pair of national recognitions last week, for the university's work in LGBTQ inclusivity and its trees on campus.

    NKU was named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, the eleventh straight year for the Highland Heights campus.

    "Tree Campuses and their students set examples for not only their student bodies but the surrounding communities showcasing how trees create a healthier environment,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Because of Northern Kentucky University's participation air will be purer, water cleaner and your students and faculty will be surrounded by the shade and beauty the trees provide.”

    Tree Campus USA reviews five standards when evaluating institutions: establishing a campus tree-care plan, maintaining a tree advisory committee, dedicating annual expenditures for its campus tree program and holding an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project. Three hundred eighty fives institutions around the country were honored for their urban forest management efforts.

    NKU has implemented many sustainability efforts across campus, including establishing an on-campus community garden, providing alternative transportation methods and creating ‘no mow’ zones to return areas of campus back to its natural state. In November, NKU became the first organization in Kentucky to join the Cincinnati 2030 District—an international network of cities developing a new model for urban sustainability.

    Meanwhile, NKU received the highest designation by Campus Pride Index—establishing the university as a national leader in higher education for LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs and practices.

    NKU’s 5-star ranking is the best in Greater Cincinnati.

    Campus Pride Index, an LGBTQ national benchmarking tool for colleges and universities, ranked NKU as 27th in the nation out of more than 350 institutions, making it the highest-ranking university in the Commonwealth.

    “This rating recognizes what those of us who are here already know—that NKU is an inclusive community that strives to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background, faith, sexual orientation or age have a sense of belonging here. I am proud of our faculty, staff and alumni who have worked diligently towards creating an inclusive culture particularly for our LGBTQ students, faculty and staff,” said NKU President Ashish Vaidya.

    The Campus Pride Index assessed each institution’s efforts with LGBTQ policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing, campus safety and counseling and wellness.

    “Inclusiveness is part of the culture at Northern Kentucky University. The LGBTQA community is represented throughout the campus leadership, and this leadership regularly visibly celebrates our community. The Office of LGBTQ Programs and Services works with campus and community partners to cultivate a welcoming, inclusive campus for LGBTQA students, faculty and staff,” Campus Pride stated in its review.

    Campus Pride highlighted NKU’s advocacy programs and services, campus inclusivity and resources like the Name Change Form and P.R.I.D.E Mentor Program. Each year, the university also celebrates LGBTQ History Month in October with multiple events throughout the month.

    “We’ve been recognized with a 4.5-star rating over the last several years. Finally achieving a 5-star rating continues to be a campus-wide effort that we’ve engaged in over the last six and half years,” said Bonnie Meyer, director of NKU’s LGBTQ Program and Services. “NKU’s rich culture of acceptance has allowed any student to find their authentic self, and as the founding director of the Office of LGBTQ Programs and Services, I could not be prouder of our university.”

    “This ranking is a direct reflection of the values of the university. It is our vision and mission to create a community that welcomes all students. It is important to not only acknowledge but to celebrate the diversity of our students who call NKU home,” said Darryl Peal, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and Title IX Coordinator.

    The LGBTQ Programs & Services Office was created in the summer of 2013. As part of the Office of Student Affairs, it’s committed to offering programs and services to increase visibility, awareness and advocacy for the LGBTQ students, staff and faculty at NKU.


  • March 05, 2020 1:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: NKY Tribune

    Horizon Community Funds, community partners create Licking River Conservation, Greenway Fund


    Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky has joined community partners to establish the Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund, which supports land and water conservation and greenway initiatives in the Licking River watershed.

    “This is an exciting, and critical, fund for us to offer Northern Kentucky,” says Horizon Community Funds President Nancy Grayson. “It shows the breadth of partnerships we’re able to create as a community foundation serving Northern Kentucky. Together, we can better address the many diverse needs of our community, including helping to preserve the natural and historical heritage of the Licking River.”

    Through the new fund, Horizon Community Funds and supporting donors will gather financial resources to invest in the conservation and stewardship of the Licking River, while helping to raise awareness of its value as a natural, historical, and economic resource.

    The Licking River, named for the many prehistoric salt springs and licks in the region, is a historic and natural treasure for both Northern Kentucky and the Commonwealth. With ties to Native American history, the Revolutionary War, the Underground Railroad, and the state’s original bourbon journey, the Licking River watershed also sustains a wide range of biodiversity and boasts more mussel species than the entire continent of Africa.

    Within the Northern Kentucky area, most of the Licking River watershed exists in Campbell and Kenton counties. Several creeks in the area act as tributaries to the river.

    For more information or to make a gift to the Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund at Horizon Community Funds, visit www.horizonfunds.org or call 859.757.1552.

    Comments from Project Partners:

    Kris Knochelmann, Kenton County Judge Executive

    “The Licking River is an incredible natural resource in our community. The Conservation and Greenway Fund will be another tool available to help protect this asset and make it accessible to folks for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, camping and a whole host of outdoor activities. The work to restore and conserve the Licking River watershed will be generational, but all great efforts start with seemingly small steps forward that compound significantly over time. If you want to be a part of potentially the largest land and water conservation effort in Kenton County’s history, let me know. We want to work with you.”

    Steve Pendery, Campbell County Judge Executive

    “The Licking River is central to the story of Northern Kentucky. The streams of twenty-three Kentucky counties lead to this place, and hundreds of years of the Commonwealth’s history flow along with it. The Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund fills a gap in the tools available to our community to conserve and activate this natural asset. I appreciate Horizon Community Funds’ partnership in creating this mechanism and hope that it fulfills its potential to assist in conserving and restoring the watershed’s corridor. This is a long-term project, but I’m excited at the steps being taken forward and am confident that our younger generations will see it through and celebrate its success.”

    Rich Boehne, Horizon Community Funds Council of Trustees

    “Setting up this conservation and greenway fund and bringing the many tools of Horizon Community Funds to the effort will be foundational in reaching long-term goals for development of the Licking River as a leading destination for recreational and environmental tourism. The fund also will be a platform for supporting and facilitating investments in the conservation and health of this critical watershed that binds together a significant portion of the Commonwealth.”

    Amy Winkler, District Coordinator of Campbell County Conservation District

    “The opportunity that has arisen and made possible through the Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund has connected numerous organizations for the purpose of land conservation and recreational uses. The Campbell County Conservation District looks forward to working with these groups through our common goal of being good stewards of the land and highlighting the natural beauty of the Licking River Corridor. Our Hawthorne Crossing Conservation Area is just one step toward conserving the Licking River corridor in Campbell County.”

    Chris Kaeff, Kenton County Soil & Water Conservation District

    “On the map, it may serve as the official boundary line between the counties, but in reality, the Licking River brings the people of Northern Kentucky together. It is an essential feature of our shared landscape, our shared heritage, and our shared future. The new Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund will provide critical resources to the public agencies and nonprofits, on both sides of the river, who are dedicated to improving the health and vitality of this magnificent waterway. The Kenton County Conservation District welcomes the opportunity to work with new partners through the Fund in order to protect the natural beauty of the Morning View Heritage Area and enhance public recreational access to the river.”

    Donavan Hornsby, Campbell County Conservancy

    “As stewards of the land, Northern Kentucky residents and stakeholders have an opportunity to elevate land conservation and stream restoration to the same level of reverence and commitment afforded by the community to values such as public safety, education, and economic vitality. Many recognize that these core values are interdependent and crucial to our collective future. Realization of our potential as a region will require acceleration and deepening of conservation’s impacts. We greatly appreciate Horizon Community Funds’ commitment to and investment in that realization.”

    Wade Johnston, Director of Tri-State Trails at Green Umbrella

    “Many of us drive over the Licking River on a daily basis, but few have an opportunity to interact with the scenic and historic waterway. The unprecedented multi-jurisdictional effort to conserve and celebrate the Licking River corridor will make this amazing asset more accessible to Northern Kentuckians. The Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund is a critical tool to enable the community to take part in preserving this natural resource for future generations.”


  • March 04, 2020 1:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: The River City News

    New Fund Established to Support Stewardship of Licking River Watershed


    A new effort to preserve and improve parts of the Licking River watershed was announced on Wednesday.

    Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky announced with community partners the Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund to support land and water conservation, and greenway initiatives.

    “This is an exciting, and critical, fund for us to offer Northern Kentucky,” said Horizon Community Funds President Nancy Grayson, in the announcement. “It shows the breadth of partnerships we’re able to create as a community foundation serving Northern Kentucky. Together, we can better address the many diverse needs of our community, including helping to preserve the natural and historical heritage of the Licking River.”

    Through the new fund Horizon Community Funds and supporting donors will gather financial resources to invest in the conservation and stewardship of the Licking River, while helping to raise awareness of its value as a natural, historical, and economic resource, a release said.

    The Licking River, named for the many prehistoric salt springs and licks in the region, is a historic and natural resource for both Northern Kentucky and the entire Commonwealth. With ties to Native American history, the Revolutionary War, the Underground Railroad, and the state’s original bourbon journey, the Licking River watershed also sustains a wide range of biodiversity and boasts more mussel species than the entire continent of Africa.

    Within the Northern Kentucky area, most of the Licking River watershed exists in Campbell and Kenton counties. Several creeks in the area act as tributaries to the river.

    Local officials and project partners applauded the new effort.

    “The Licking River is an incredible natural resource in our community," said Kenton Co. Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann. "The Conservation and Greenway Fund will be another tool available to help protect this asset and make it accessible to folks for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, camping and a whole host of outdoor activities. The work to restore and conserve the Licking River watershed will be generational, but all great efforts start with seemingly small steps forward that compound significantly over time. If you want to be a part of potentially the largest land and water conservation effort in Kenton County’s history, let me know. We want to work with you.”

    “The Licking River is central to the story of Northern Kentucky," said Campbell Co. Judge/Executive Steve Pendery. "The streams of twenty-three Kentucky counties lead to this place, and hundreds of years of the Commonwealth’s history flow along with it. The Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund fills a gap in the tools available to our community to conserve and activate this natural asset. I appreciate Horizon Community Funds’ partnership in creating this mechanism, and hope that it fulfills its potential to assist in conserving and restoring the watershed’s corridor. This is a long-term project, but I’m excited at the steps being taken forward and am confident that our younger generations will see it through and celebrate its success.”

    “Setting up this conservation and greenway fund, and bringing the many tools of Horizon Community Funds to the effort, will be foundational in reaching long-term goals for development of the Licking River as a leading destination for recreational and environmental tourism," said Rich Boehne, a member of Horizon Community Funds council of trustees. "The fund also will be a platform for supporting and facilitating investments in the conservation and health of this critical watershed that binds together a significant portion of the Commonwealth.”

    “The opportunity that has arisen and made possible through the Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund has connected numerous organizations for the purpose of land conservation and recreational uses," said Amy Winkler, district coordinator of Campbell County Conservation District. "The Campbell County Conservation District looks forward to working with these groups through our common goal of being good stewards of the land and highlighting the natural beauty of the Licking River Corridor. Our Hawthorne Crossing Conservation Area is just one step toward conserving the Licking River corridor in Campbell County.”

    “On the map, it may serve as the official boundary line between the counties, but in reality, the Licking River brings the people of Northern Kentucky together," said Chris Kaeff of the Kenton County Soil & Water Conservation District. "It is an essential feature of our shared landscape, our shared heritage, and our shared future. The new Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund will provide critical resources to the public agencies and nonprofits, on both sides of the river, who are dedicated to improving the health and vitality of this magnificent waterway. The Kenton County Conservation District welcomes the opportunity to work with new partners through the Fund in order to protect the natural beauty of the Morning View Heritage Area and enhance public recreational access to the river.”

    "As stewards of the land, Northern Kentucky residents and stakeholders have an opportunity to elevate land conservation and stream restoration to the same level of reverence and commitment afforded by the community to values such as public safety, education, and economic vitality," said Donavan Hornsby, of the Campbell County Conservancy. "Many recognize that these core values are interdependent and crucial to our collective future. Realization of our potential as a region will require acceleration and deepening of conservation's impacts. We greatly appreciate Horizon Community Funds’ commitment to and investment in that realization."

    "Many of us drive over the Licking River on a daily basis, but few have an opportunity to interact with the scenic and historic waterway," said Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails at Green Umbrella. "The unprecedented multi-jurisdictional effort to conserve and celebrate the Licking River corridor will make this amazing asset more accessible to Northern Kentuckians. The Licking River Conservation and Greenway Fund is a critical tool to enable the community to take part in preserving this natural resource for future generations.”


  • February 27, 2020 1:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Indiana University

    Cincinnati, Ohio Amends Zoning Code to Support Urban Agriculture

    In 2019, the City of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council worked to streamline urban agriculture policies in the zoning code. Prior to the update, farming regulations were dispersed across multiple chapters. Now there is a single chapter related to all things agriculture with updates that make it easier for residents and businesses to establish community gardens and urban farms, compost food waste, and keep animals for farming purposes. The effort was supported by local Councilmembers, multiple municipal departments, and an extensive network of stakeholders and community members.

    Background

    In 2017 the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, a local non-governmental organization, and two Cincinnati City Councilmembers hosted a large stakeholder meeting to explore ways to integrate supportive urban agriculture regulations across City departments. A City Council motion passed shortly thereafter tasking the Planning Department to make the municipal code to be more permissive for urban agriculture, setting the stage for future community-wide engagement that would redesign the zoning code.

    Implementation

    After the motion passed, the Planning Department convened a variety of City departments (Law, Buildings and Inspection, Office of Environment and Sustainability, Health) and the Food Policy Council to undertake a collaborative redesign process. With the goals of ensuring flexibility for residents engaged in urban agriculture and ease of inspection for regulators, the group led by the Planning Department met several times over the year to identify priorities, host focus groups, and translate feedback into draft code. Two focus groups of community growers discussed horticulture and animal keeping. Two sessions per focus group were held. All draft language was made available and posted on the Planning Department website throughout the process.

    Another key priority was equity. Participants in the stakeholder meetings raised a concern that white, affluent interests would begin to farm and gentrify underdeveloped/underserviced plots in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. In order to ensure that all communities were aware of the upcoming zoning changes and farming opportunities, the stakeholder hosted discussions at public libraries and community council meetings in the neighborhoods that could be vulnerable to this change.

    Supporting the Right to Food Access and Agriculture through Zoning

    Food security and sovereignty refer to the availability, access to, and right to healthy, affordable, sustainable, and culturally-appropriate food. In addition to allowing and regulating farming, community gardens, and composting across city districts as Cincinnati's code update has done, there are other zoning strategies that can address food-related goals in cities and towns. According to Sustainable Development Code, the following approaches are some of the most successful food-related strategies/codes:

    Remove Code Barriers

    Allow for recycled water irrigation systems in new developments, including for agricultural uses

    Reduce barriers to encourage Cluster/Conservation subdivision in rural/urban areas

    Increase the opportunity for healthy food development by limiting the prevalence of fast food, drive-through services, etc.

    Create Incentives

    Offer incentives for construction green roofing

    Fill Regulatory Gaps

    Create an Urban Growth Area in order to designate areas where development is permitted

    Establish an Urban Service Area in order to define areas that receive access to public services such as water.

    Designate setbacks to protect agriculture, sensitive habitats, and water quality

    Encourage the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems or rainwater catchment plans

    It is important to note that other municipal, state, and federal law also applies to agricultural activities in the City (for example, Board of Health, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Agriculture, etc.). Cincinnati’s urban agriculture zoning revisions did not modify any of these requirements.

    Funding

    Beyond staff time, this was a no-cost initiative.

    Timeline

    After approximately 2 years of working to update the code, the City Planning Council voted unanimously to confirm the updates in 2019.

    Outcomes and Conclusions

    The final code went into effect in September 2019. The updates make it easier for residents and businesses to establish community gardens and urban farms, compost food waste, and keep animals for farming purposes. There are also provisions for indoor farming and aquaculture. Importantly, since the old agriculture-related code provided insufficient/scattered coverage and was too restrictive for property owners, the updated code language improves enforcement clarity for inspectors and establishes farming as a right for property owners.

    Prior to the code update, farm-stands weren’t allowed, especially in residential areas. Now farm-based businesses are regulated like other home-based businesses. Areas that allow home-based accounting or doctor’s offices now also allow the sale of farm products from home. Similarly, it was difficult to implement community composting because the old code prohibited people from using off-site land materials. Since September, additional stakeholder convenings were held around community composting and gardens. In collaboration with the Hamilton County Solid Waste District, the City and Food Policy Council are working to develop a comprehensive approach to neighborhood composting. The current goals of the community now are establishing best practices for community composting, connecting with interested local businesses, and creating guidelines for composting infrastructure.

    Challenges

    Due to the complexity and many obligations of those involved with the code revisions, the process took a long time. By nature, updating zoning language is a deliberative process and it is important to keep all participants moving at the same pace and in a similar direction. This, therefore, required all involved departments and organizations to have regular attendance at meetings and provide an allowance for last-minute input from previously non-engaged groups. While the effort was successful in the end, additional staff resources can help future efforts expedite the long planning process.

    Another challenge will be making the updated code language accessible to all residents. Zoning code language often includes terms that are unfamiliar to the general public such as the difference between “conditional” and “exemptions.” To address this issue, the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council Director created a simple document to make the updated language more accessible and included cross-referencing and linking to other relevant codes.

    Keys for Success

    Important keys for success were having a stakeholder-driven process, initial political backing from Council, pre-planning from community groups, and an emphasis on ensuring inclusive internal and external engagement processes (such as the inter-departmental collaborations, focus groups, and updating of low-income neighborhoods and communities color).


  • February 18, 2020 10:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Soapbox Cincinnati 

    By: LIZ MCEWAN

    Creativity in community: solving Walnut Hills’ food security crisis

    In December of 2016, the Walnut Hills community was shocked by devastating news: their neighborhood Kroger store was closing. With its exit, the grocer rendered Walnut Hills an official food desert and its residents — many of whom were low income, elderly, or disabled —now had to find another way to buy groceries.

    In the three years since Kroger’s closure, Walnut Hills has turned this proverbial “lemon” into lemonade, using the crisis of food insecurity as a rally cry for activism and entrepreneurship. Creative solutions have risen up from every corner of the neighborhood (and beyond) and, though it’s not perfect, Walnut Hills’ food system is coming to life.

    Hoping for the best; preparing for the worst

    Back in 2016, the leadership of Walnut Hills was not surprised by the news from Kroger. They knew the store had been losing money. The Walnut Hills Area Council and the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation (WHRF) had employed various tactics to keep Kroger open, but it wasn’t enough. The store was economically unsustainable and had been for years. And with a new $25M Kroger store opening a few miles away in Corryville, they knew the decision could come at any time.

    Food security is a more urgent issue for some residents than for others. For those with reliable transportation, or those with flexible schedules and budgets, driving a few miles for groceries is an inconvenience but not a crisis.

    For very low-income, elderly, or disabled residents, the logistics alone of getting to the grocery store and then getting the groceries back home again is a struggle. The absence of a full-service neighborhood grocer could mean the difference between dinner on the table and an empty pantry or between a meal made with fresh vegetables and one pieced together with snacks from the corner store.

    Food insecurity may have become a more urgent issue when Kroger left the neighborhood, but it is not new a new problem for many in Walnut Hills. For those experiencing food insecurity, social services agencies like food pantries and soup kitchens can provide an immediate safety net for urgent needs.

    The Queen City Kitchen has been a staple in Walnut Hills since 1976. It operates two soup kitchens in Cincinnati: one in Walnut Hills and one in Over-the-Rhine. The Walnut Hills location is open five days a week for a hot meal, and two meals are served on Saturdays.

    They also provide a “choice pantry” which means, rather than receiving a random bag of groceries, clients can “shop” from whatever food or pantry items are available, choosing only things they want and will actually eat.

    Clients can pick from the same items they’d find at a full-service grocery store — things like canned fruits and vegetables, beans and rice, noodles, cereal and breads, snacks, cookies, and condiments — though brand options and varieties are limited. Some items are donated by partnering agencies; some are purchased by Queen City Kitchen for their inventory.

    In 2019, the Queen City Kitchen served 56,000 hot meals and provided 601 different clients with take-home groceries. They served 4,316 hot meals in January of 2020.

    Open Door Ministry is another agency meeting the baseline need for groceries for vulnerable residents. They opened in 1973 as a ministry of the Episcopal Church of the Advent.

    The ministry provides payee services for clients and a food pantry. They are open weekdays, with one Saturday food giveaway a month.

    While they don’t serve hot meals, Open Door Ministry has a free breakfast cafe, which combats the loneliness experienced by many of these vulnerable residents. The cafe provides a “third place” for people who may not be able to afford the pleasure of sharing a cup of coffee or a meal with a friend at a nearby restaurant. The cafe has become a valuable asset among residents who stop in for a donut or a bag of groceries for the week, or both.

    Partnering for healthy food options

    In early 2017, even before Kroger was officially gone, the WHRF jumped into action, inviting residents to engage in the process of re-imagining food access in the neighborhood for the long-term. With Kroger’s impending closure, they also ramped up their existing food access programs, including those health and wellness focus, like urban gardening and farmers markets.

    Long-term Walnut Hills resident Gary Dangel is the Food Access Coordinator at the WHRF.

    He is confident that they’ll eventually secure a grocery operator for the neighborhood. But, in the interim, he says all other ideas are on the table, especially if they help create a truly robust food system that meets the needs of the whole community.

    He explains the plight of an average Walnut Hills resident.

    “Imagine I’m a 65-yr old guy living in the Alexandria [housing complex],” he says. “I don’t have an income. I don’t have a car and I don’t walk well. So I have to get on a bus and spend three hours doing my grocery shopping and I have to buy food that won’t spoil or melt during my three hour trip back on the bus home.”

    Residents like this, he explains, end up making unhealthy food choices, buying only frozen foods or processed foods in boxes and cans. In the absence of a neighborhood grocery store, Dangel wants to provide better and healthier options for residents, especially those with limited income and mobility.

    “Success [for us],” Dangel says, “is when you don’t have to leave the neighborhood and you get all the food options you would anywhere else.”

    Dangel’s activism is a remnant of his time as a young adult living in an off-the grid “hippie commune” where he learned the value of growing your own food and living off the fruits of your labor. He believes that food access is a matter of social justice, community health, and environmental sustainability.

    One of his greatest joys is being able to deliver fresh-picked produce into the hands of a neighborhood resident.

    “This is directly from the garden, ‘farm-to-table’ in the true sense of the word,” he explains. “I can tell people that this tomato was picked a quarter mile from where we’re standing, by me, picked by hand, a half hour ago.”

    As a program of the redevelopment foundation, Dangel has been offering fresh, seasonal produce (and sometimes smoothies) to residents via a pop-up produce stand. He sets up shop at various events around the neighborhood like the (seasonal) monthly Noir Market and the weekly Healthy Harvest Mobile Market in the vacant Kroger parking lot.

    The Noir Market is the brainchild of MORTAR graduate Ora Daniels of Sugar Innovations. She saw the vacant Kroger parking lot as an opportunity to adapt the farmers market concept she’d seen elsewhere to the particular needs of Walnut Hills.

    Her market is made of mostly black entrepreneurs selling food and goods to the predominately African-American customer base of the neighborhood. Daniels says the Noir Market will grow and expand in 2020, with more food vendors and live music. She’s excited to provide a culturally-relevant experience for the neighborhood while also meeting the practical need for greater food access.

    The Healthy Harvest Mobile Market (HHMM) is a program of Freestore Foodbank, offering wholesale-priced grocery staples and fresh food to residents in twelve food desert communities across Cincinnati. Dangel says the weekly HHMM has been a life-saver for the neighborhood these past few years.

    “From day one when Kroger closed, they were there,” he remembers.

    The program helps fill the void in places where it’s hard to find (and buy) healthy food. In addition to bringing the food directly to the customer, the program offers special double-your-money perks to low-income customers using a SNAP/EBT card, making these fresh items even more affordable.

    This outside help is necessary for a community in crisis. But greater local food security and sustainability is still the goal, Dangel says. He is hoping to offer a hyper-local CSA program soon for residents who are interested. And he’s always doubly excited to have resident volunteers help with the planting and harvesting of the locally-grown food that ends up in neighborhood kitchens.

    Gardening and gleaning

    It’s a common theme in Walnut Hills to see vacant lots reclaimed as community space, many of them as community gardens. Walnut Hills has seven community gardens, which are managed in a variety of ways by both residents and local organizations. There are two foraging fruit orchards, as well as some simple vegetable and flower gardens.

    Sue Plummer is the garden manager at the Glean and Share Community Garden, a project designed to implement the Old Testament practice of leaving some food in the fields after the harvest for the poor and widowed to freely glean for themselves.

    Plummer explains, “The concept, today, refers broadly to rescuing edible food that might otherwise be left in the field, on the shelf, or in the restaurant kitchen, and getting it re-distributed to food insecure individuals.”

    Glean and Share is a project of Vitality Cincinnati, The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, and the Society of Saint Andrew. It was started in 2018 and funded by a Green Umbrella Grant.

    Plummer cites a recent study that says 30% of the food produced by farmers never leaves the field. As the Glean and Share program expands into a Walnut Hills garden, the aim is to keep as much of the produce from the garden in the Walnut Hills neighborhood, distributing it to local residents, food pantries, and soup kitchens.

    “The goal is serving and feeding those who are food insecure,” Plummer explains.

    “We have a significant population living at or below the poverty level, and a great desire to serve our neighbors, and help them find options to serve themselves. The community gardens are also one of the few places where neighbors might meet who may not meet otherwise.”

    Plummer isn’t the only one implementing this gleaning concept. In 2020 La Soupe will be moving to their new facility right in the middle of the Walnut Hills business district.

    La Soupe is a business with a mission to rescue, transform, and share food waste. They rescue food from stores like Kroger, Jungle Jims, and Whole Foods — plus food scraps from local restaurants and gleaned produce from community gardens — and process it into healthy, delicious meals.

    Board President Mimi Dyer says La Soupe rescues, per week, 8,000 pounds of food and then gives away 6,500 servings. They sort the food, remove any bad parts, and cook it into soups and pan meals to share with their 80 partners, many of them local schools. Most everything their chefs cook is made entirely from rescued food, even down to the soup broth.

    When relocating to Walnut Hills this year, La Soupe will expand from a tiny 900-square-foot facility to more than 10,000 square feet, opening up the opportunity for retail space, walk-up services, and more educational opportunities.

    “Once people start eating and tasting this really healthy food, they want to know how to make it themselves,” Dyer says.

    A much larger space with a commercial kitchen means they can welcome more people in for classes to learn how to prepare healthy food into simple one-pot meals. They even provide a crockpot for students in their classes to make this an easier transition at home.

    Walnut Hills was hand-picked for La Soupe’s $5M relocation project because of its convenient location, access to public transportation, and the dependability of its urban infrastructure. Plus, it’s a food desert and food security is a part of their mission.

    La Soup brings one more opportunity for residents to make healthy eating easier with limited food access, time, and budgets.

    Thinking creatively about community-driven solutions

    Walnut Hills is not the only food desert in Cincinnati. Others — like Avondale, Madisonville, and College Hill — have been navigating this problem for years, with mixed success.

    The grocery industry is not completely blind to the concern. One innovative solution is digital commerce where, with the click of a few buttons, customers can have the groceries of their choice delivered right to their door from large retailers like Aldi, Kroger, and Whole Foods. But, for low income Cincinnatians receiving food stamps, this isn’t a feasible option. Almost no online grocery services accept their SNAP/EBT card.

    Food Forest is the exception.

    Food Forest is an app-based online grocery store that captures inventory from various sources around Cincinnati, including multiple vendors from Findlay Market and food entrepreneurs from the Incubator Kitchen Collective in Newport, KY. Customers place their order through the app, Food Forest completes their orders around town, and then personally delivers the products to a “hotspot” location in their community. Customers pay Food Forest directly upon delivery. And they accept SNAP/EBT.

    It’s like a personal shopper for those who could not normally afford the luxury.

    Founder David Curtin developed the app based on his firsthand knowledge of the grocery industry. He was working on the digital team at Kroger in 2016 when the news broke about the Walnut Hills neighborhood store. When he saw the reaction, both within Kroger and on the community level, he knew there had to be a better solution.

    “People rallied behind the issue,” he remembers. And the Kroger Foundation has worked to remediate the problem to an extent. But a human-scale solution from inside a global-scale company, he says, is “complicated.” Yet, the problem of food insecurity is not going away. Curtin says it is only going to get worse as retailers like dollar stores fill in the void left by large grocers chasing more high-yield markets.

    The Food Forest concept marries the innovation of mobile grocery service with the needs of low-income customers and communities. Curtin says that most people see mobile grocery as a more expensive way to shop, but it doesn’t need to be. By “multi-sourcing” local products, customers can actually save money.

    Food Forest’s launch was funded by a grant from the Haile Foundation. As far as operational costs, the Food Forest business model is very minimalistic with little overhead. They keep almost no inventory. Everything is ordered, picked up, and delivered efficiently in a short window of time.

    Curtin keeps a small staff: just himself, a part-time delivery associate, and two tech partners. And he takes no salary. Before the business launched, he and his wife implemented a family plan to save enough money for him to work two years pro bono while establishing the business.

    “I was really inspired by things we were trying to do internally at Kroger,” Curtin says, like the idea of the “endless aisle” of products. But the concept was hard to implement and execute inside a big company. He wanted to create a miniature model that was easier on the environment and more small-business friendly. And he wanted it to be accessible to vulnerable residents like those in food deserts, like those in Walnut Hills.

    “Walnut Hills is the place to model this kind of solution,” Curtin explains.

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