At its recent January 2013 meeting, the Fertile Crescent Steering Committee voted to rename the “Food Bank” component of the ATL Food Commons to the “Community Food Fund”. This change was made to avoid the possibility that the food system financing component of the Fertile Crescent might be misperceived as a food pantry or confused with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The motion to adopt the new term was a recommendation from the subcommittee led by Willie Jackson, along with a plan of action that included establishment of a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) to provide financing options for the food enterprises participating with the initiative.
A neighborhood level adaptation of local food system economic development model know as The Food Commons, the Fertile Crescent is being developed within neighborhoods abutting the Atlanta Beltline’s subarea planning sections 1,2,9, and 10 (see figure A). The now named Community Food Fund is one of three main components that constitute the food-based economy envisioned, with the others being a Food Hub and Food Trust. Working together in a concerted fashion, these three elements are designed to capture economies of scale that could make a local food system focused on urban agriculture competitive with the existing food industry. The goal is to create green, sustainable jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities where working people in distressed neighborhoods benefit the most.
Guiding this process, the Fertile Crescent Steering Committee (FCSC) was established in November 2012 during a visit to Atlanta by the Food Commons co-founders Jim Cochran and Larry Yee. The committee is facilitated by Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network and led by AM-FFN’s Program Director Kwabena Nkromo. FCSC members are a mix of residents and stakeholders based in the neighborhoods of the selected area such as Abiodun Henderson of the Westview neighborhood, C. Shaheed DuBois of Vine City, and Gil Frank with
Historic Westside Gardens. In addition, key partner representative are involved like Rob Brawner of the Beltline Partnership, Erika Smith of the Fulton County Economic Development Division, and Trish O’Connell with the Atlanta Housing Authority. Meetings are held once a month located at venues throughout the Fertile Crescent mapped district and are open to the public for observation.
Along with the Community Food Fund subcommittee, sub-groups within Steering Committee are also addressing the Food Hub and Food Trust areas of
work. The “hub” concept within the Food Commons model is quite different than its popular use in the local food movement. The Food Hub under development here is better described as a vertically integrated network of various food system enterprises that would create a “spin” of economic activity for the Fertile Crescent local food commerce community. This would entail the agricultural crop aggregating, processing and distribution functions commonly associated with food hubs, but will also include businesses like food retail outlets (i.e. neighborhood-scaled grocery stores) and restaurants that offer locally-sourced based menus. Similarly, the Food Trust will be a variation on the more commonly know Community Land Trust concept. This subcommittee is moving quickly to establish an entity that would be capable of assembling “in trust” various assets located within the Fertile Crescent area (un-developed land for urban farming, warehouses, farm worker housing, etc) and making them affordably available for Fertile Crescent entrepreneurs or groups.
Anyone with expertise or interest related to any of the components of the Food Commons model is invited to be considered for participation on the subcommittees. For inquiries, contact AM-FFN Deputy Program Director Terry Williams-Cointault at email@example.com.