Archive for October, 2011

SALT and PUFFA: Students Advocating for Nutritious School Lunch Food

October 27, 2011

Every month, students from West and South Philadelphia meet to discuss ways to get healthier food into their communities and public schools. These students are from PUFFA (Philadelphia Urban Food and Fitness Alliance) and SALT (Students Advocating for Lifestyle Transformations). In September, PUFFA and SALT had their first meeting for the school year at the People’s Emergency Center in West Philly.

 Over a healthy meal of turkey and veggie burgers, salad and juice (prepared by the students), about 20  students between the ages of 14 and 18 played team-building games and talked about upcoming events for the school year.

 Tiffany Spraggins, the youth engagement coordinator, energetically gets the group of students to chant “community.” She emphasizes the importance of making decisions together through “being positive and supporting each other like a family.” She comments that “these students are so talented and they have really been influential to their peers and the community in bringing local, healthy food to schools and the surrounding community.”

 Spraggins also stresses that this program reminds and teaches students that they can be outspoken advocates for issues in their community, not only healthy food access. By teaching the students public speaking and leadership skills, the students have the resources to become leaders in their communities. Displaying behavior such as choosing healthier food, the students become advocates for healthier food.

 Meals are planned by taking menu items off the public school lunch menu and making them healthier and more exciting by adding local ingredients, changing the recipe, or experimenting. In November, pilot taste testing will occur at 2 area high schools. Possible taste-tested items will incorporate more local, healthy food into the recipe.

 PUFFA and SALT are finding unique ways to reach out to their peers to make better food choices, including text-messaging, using Facebook, and the possibility of using Twitter.  Every month, the students send out several rounds of text messages with catchy sayings like “add flavor, not fat.”

 During the past year, students from SALT and PUFFA participated in conferences, went before the School Reform Commission, participated in summer internships focused on food access, and collected signature for petitions—all for healthier school food. Several students spent the summer at WHYY learning video and photo skills to help them spread the word about healthy food.

 Videos produced during the summer by SALT and PUFFA students were screened at the Food Day Film Screening at the Clef Club. Several of these short videos are displayed at schools on hallway TV monitors to remind students of healthy food choices.

 For more information about SALT and PUFFA, visit their facebook website here.

Carrot Mob at West Phillie Produce

October 27, 2011

Fun at the Carrot Mob (Courtesy of Andy Toy)

Philadelphia is a city of food deserts—but local non-profits, the city and others are trying to change that.

National Food Day was October 24th, but festivities occurred throughout the last two weeks of October in Philadelphia.

There have been several recent events to push for local, healthy food in by creating incentives for corner stores, opening more farmers markets, and finding other innovative ways to make local and healthy food more accessible and affordable to all residents of Philadelphia.

The Carrot Mob in West Philadelphia was one of them.

Fresh produce display (Courtesy of Andy Toy)

The Carrot Mob, planned by The Enterprise Center and other area organizations, raised awareness about increasing healthy food access through a “buycott” at West Phillie Produce—a corner store at 16 South 62nd Street.  While a boycott discourages people to buy from a store, a buycott encourages people to buy from stores in the area identified to have sustainable food practices and that offer healthy, local products.

Arnett Woodall opened West Phillie Produce almost 2 years ago and is struggling to make ends meet at the store. The Carrot Mob is a welcomed event in his opinion, and proceeds from the Carrot Mob event will help to expand West Phillie Produce’s healthy food offerings (such as vegetables and fruits) as well as assist in the purchase of a commercial juicer. About 100 residents attended the buycott.

The Enterprise Center Philadelphia coordinated the Carrot Mob, along with The Merchants Fund, The Food Trust, and several other partners.

For more on carrot mobs, click here.

POWER’s West/South Meeting Kicks Off Jobs Campaign

October 13, 2011


Continuing the momentum from the POWER Convention on September 25, the West/South regional cluster meeting in West Philadelphia was held on Tuesday, October 11th at Calvary United Methodist Church. About 80 residents came out for the meeting along with POWER’s executive director Bishop Dwayne Royster and the region’s coordinator, Wes Lathrop.

While the September meeting was a “wedding” celebration according to Royster, the regional meetings get down to business about how to move the POWER’s plan forward to link Philadelphians to jobs. Tuesday evening’s meeting was a mix of reflection, group activities, and planning for the future. Over the next several months, the four POWER regions will hold monthly meetings to inform residents about what the organization is doing and to share training techniques for residents to engage their neighbors.

At this meeting, residents were asked to reach out to 50 people over the next several months by sharing their employment stories. In doing so, they will attempt to open the dialogue about employment issues in Philadelphia, where the unemployment rate is reaching 11%.

POWER is a faith-based non-profit composed of  about 40 congregations across the Philadelphia area with five core issues—jobs, educational opportunities, health care, public safety, and housing. Currently, the main focus of POWER’s efforts is job creation—they would like to connect Philadelphians to 10,000 jobs within the next 5 years.

The next meeting of the POWER West/South region will be on November 14th from 6:30-8:30pm at Calvery St. Augustine Episcopal Church (814 North 41st Street).

Opening of Mantua Square

October 7, 2011

Affordable housing is continuing to grow in West Philadelphia—a few weeks ago Jannie’s Place by People’s Emergency Center had its grand opening and this week the Philadelphia Housing Authority opened Mantua Square on Tuesday, October 4th.  Located at 35th Street and Fairmount Avenue, Mantua Square boasts 101 affordable units (duplexes and apartments) and 92 parking spaces. The square has a gated courtyard with green areas and solar panels on the roof. Commercial space was also incorporated in the site, with 7,400 square feet of space to attract more businesses to the up and coming Mantua neighborhood.

As part of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials “Housing America” month, the opening celebrated the successes and importance of affordable housing in the area. Congressman Chaka Fattah and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, both strong advocates for affordable housing in Philadelphia, were present along with residents and community stakeholders.

For more information on Mantua Square, click here