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Students, Faculty and members of the community gather inside the Student Center for lectures on sustainable food.

April 18, 2013

By Daniel Herda

On Thursday April 11, The Cleveland State Student center hosted its sixth panel discussion in the series Understanding Health Disparities with a discussion on sustainable local food. The experts discussed how food and health are related to social issues and the wellbeing of the community.

The series is arranged by Kendra Daniel, project coordinator in the Center for Health Equity, Maxine Goodman Levine College of Urban Affairs.
The Center for Health Equity is supported by a grant from National Institutes of Health and works on developing curriculum that prepares students to work with health care institutions in Cleveland, explained Daniel.

The event was held in the third floor ballroom and was nearly packed to capacity, with a mixed blend of students, faculty and members of the public. Orange evaluation forms were available for the audience to input ideas for future health topics in the series.
The panel opened up with Jenita McGowan, Chief of Sustainability at Mayor Frank Jackson’s office, where she oversees policies related to sustainability. McGowan presented a slideshow of her plan called Sustainable Cleveland 2019, with a goal of economic growth and community engagement.

Her presentation started with a dramatic wide shot photo of the Cuyahoga River burning in 1969. Some in the audience reacted with astonishment as they stared at the black smoke on the blue water. She said the point of Sustainable Cleveland 2019 is that every ten years the media does a story about the river burning, and with the fiftieth-anniversary approaching, she wants to change how outsiders perceive the city of Cleveland.

“By 2019, we’re going to have our own story to tell the media,” McGowan said.
Later McGowan shared another photo of the river in the 1970s, which displayed an orange river draining into a brown lake, and them compared it to a picture of the river today, which showed blue waters as far as the eye could see.

“The plan is to surprise and amaze the world with a green city on a blue lake,” McGowan said. “Local food and local food economy is an important part of that.”
After McGowan’s introduction, the momentum of the event was shifted to questions and answers where audience members were able to speak their minds.

Jason Eugene Boarde, student member of the Academic Association for Food and Policy Research (AAFPR), had a few questions for the panel during the discussion. One of his questions was in regards to food waste.

“At the distribution and retail level a lot of food is wasted, and it could go to those in need,” said Boarde.

McGowan said her office runs a program called Cleveland Green Venues and it has been proven to have the best results in tackling food waste. She mentioned how CGV works with other organizations to bring healthy food by networking.

“The food bank has been brought in to make connections with institutions around Cleveland that can provide them with what they need,” McGowan said.
McGowan then turned the floor over to the three panel experts, who shared their experiences on community health, environmental improvement and economical opportunity. 

Timothy Tramble, executive director of Burton, Bell and Carr Inc. and creator of the Bridgeport Café, spoke about how he transformed 28 acres of Cleveland, known as “the forgotten triangle,” into the newly present Urban Agricultural Innovation Zone and its significance for community health.

Tramble said he and his team knocked on doors and held meetings on front and back lawns to involve members of the community in the entire decision making process of establishing the name and menu of the café and ideas for the UAIZ.
“The sign is up on Kinsman for UAIZ and our layout is on it,” Tramble said.

Tramble mentioned adding Bridgeport Café and Green City Growers Cooperative as new partners to the UAIZ along with many others, including the second panel speaker.
The second speaker, Shawn Belt, the former director of the Refugee Response Program and now with Green City Grower’s Cooperative, which is an agricultural business in the kinsman neighborhood and one of the largest greenhouse and food producing facilities in an urban are in the U.S., talked about his work with Refugee Response and urban agriculture.

He talked about the goal of finding jobs for the increasing population of refugees in Cuyahoga County and how that impacted the Cleveland farming world.
Belt mentioned he worked with refugees from Africa, Liberia, Southeast Asia and Burma. He said he helped them make an easier mental transition to life in the U.S. by increasing their farming skills, which many of them already had. He said Cleveland is diverse in its food organization and farm markets.

“I love that I can never find out everything that is happening in Cleveland with local food and it proves how powerful we are as a community,” Belt said.
As a lover of food, Belt said he is always aware of the innovative changes in the food industry, especially on a local level.

Mansfield Frazier, writer, editor, publisher and co-founder of Neighborhood Solutions and creator of The Vineyards of Chateau Hough, was the third panel speaker. He spoke about how he plans to build a bio-cellular winery adjacent to his grape vines and how he is changing the Hough community to put Cleveland on the map for economic growth.
Frazier explained his innovative bio-cellar and how it will be the first of its kind when it is finished. Half of the money was raised locally and the facilities will be in Hough community.          

“Nothing freezes when you’re 4-foot below the ground, so our bio-cellar will help grow crops in the winter,” said Frazier.
Frazier said that there are at least 9,000 houses in the Hough community that need to be torn down and his plan is to help with 10 percent of them. He said he knows the plan cannot be achieved overnight, but his goal is to create not just jobs, but wealth.  

“You shouldn’t have to move to live in a better neighborhood,” Frazier said.
After the event, Kendra Daniel moved the guests into the next room for networking with Cleveland State students, faculty and other community members.
In her own research Daniel has found that health disparities are defined by the health outcome differences based on race, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status.

“We’re looking at these differences and trying to find out why these different health outcomes occur,” said Daniel.

Daniel is planning for a seventh event in the series sometime in fall 2013 and one idea her committee has thought of is the issue around mental health and gun control. She also offers the students and faculty of Cleveland State to contact her by email with ideas about any health event they would like to see in the future.

The Understanding Health Disparities series is supported by a grant front the National Institute on Health and The National Center for Minority Health in partnership with Mentor Health Center in reducing health disparities.
Kendra Daniel can be reached at