Brownfields re-visioning project

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12647174_10154496798254256_7368736049612429505_nThe web site for our Brownfields re-visioning/planning project has been publicly launched. The first community meeting, held on Feb 1, 2016, was a huge success. About 50 residents of North Kensington attended. Temple University’s Graduate Planning Studio is helping our Center with community engagement activities, including focus group and photo-voice. Visit the project web site to learn more about the project and see more photos from last night’s event. This re-visioning/planning project is a result of a $200,000 grant from the U.S. EPA.

New journal article published

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The Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community development (vol. 6; issue 1) has published my new article. Here is a link to the online advanced publication.

Nonprofit-Driven Community Capacity-Building Efforts in Community Food Systems
Abstract: This paper explores how community-based nonprofit organizations (NPOs) build community capacity through their programs and initiatives while responding to community issues such as food insecurity and vulnerability. Based on an original survey, interviews, field observations, and spatial network analysis, the paper examines Philadelphia-based NPO-driven community capacity-building programs by using the community capitals framework, which includes human, physical, financial, social, and organizational capitals. The findings suggest that NPOs are making an important effort to build community capacity, while facing significant challenges related to administration, budget, collaboration, longevity, financial return, spatial mismatch, and community engagement. Concluding remarks include policy suggestions for NPOs that are working on community issues.

Environmental Justice paper at ISOCARP 2015

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Co-author Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone has presented our paper at the 51st ISOCARP (International Society of City and Regional Planners) congress in Amsterdam. Here is a link to the full paper.

Addressing Flooding Issues in an Environmental Justice Community: A Complicated and Multi-Layered Case Study
Authors:
Mahbubur Meenar, Jeffrey Featherstone, Jamie Magaziner

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Touring Weavers Way

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As part of my Sustainable Food Systems Planning course, I took 15 students to visit three urban farming locations, managed and operated by Weavers Way nonprofit organization. The first stop was Hope Garden at Stenton Family Manor – the first production and education garden in Philadelphia for families experiencing homelessness. We also visited Hope Farm at Martin Luther King High School. Through this program, Weavers Way teaches life skills related to urban farming and nutrition to MLK students with intellectual disabilities and autism. The second stop was Awbury Arboretum where Weavers Way has production farms and green houses for food co-ops, CSAs (Henry Got Corps), and farm stands. The final stop was their urban farm at Saul High School. In addition to managing a production farm and a huge composting facility, it provides farm education curriculum and hands-on farming experience, teaching students about small-scale, sustainable vegetable production and distribution. We also visited the dairy lab at Saul. Here are some photos from the two and a half hour tour.

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Guided farm tours

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I have recently arranged two guided farm tours for my students enrolled in the Sustainable Food Systems Planning course. One tour was at the Philadelphia Urban Creators in North Philadelphia. Our guide was Alex Epstein. The other tour was at Pennypack Farm and Education Center in Horsham, a suburb of Philadelphia. Katelyn Melvin was the guide. Mission, operation, scale, and setting wise these farms are distinct. While Philadelphia Urban Creators is working toward community food insecurity, food justice, and community capacity building, Pennypack Farm is operating a successful CSA program and offering educational services to people of all ages. We learned a lot from these tours.

Sustainable food systems planning

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Really excited about this. I am teaching a 3-credit course this fall on sustainable food systems planning for the first time. Topics will include food production, processing, distribution, consumption, waste, community development, food justice, food access, equity, education, children, farmland preservation, local farmers and farm workers, food activism, and food regulations. Presentations will be done by a number of guest speakers, representing Norris Square Neighborhood Project, SHARE Food Program, Garden Justice Legal Initiative, Hatboro-Horsham School District, Farm to City, and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Besides, three interesting field trips to Pennypack Farm, Philadelphia Urban Creators, and Weavers Way will be part of the course. Students are required to do service learning activities with any food systems related organization. I am still thinking about the final project. Most probably students will design a community garden or urban farm for a school or nonprofit organization around Temple University main campus. Students will also do research on regulatory practices related to urban agriculture in major US cities. This is a cross-listed course with one PhD student, three masters level students, and 12 undergraduate students.

Presenting a paper on “Placemaking” in Greece

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Athens ConferencePresenting a paper at the opening session and chairing another session at the 5th Annual International Conference on Urban Studies & Planning in Athens, Greece, have been a rewarding experience. Scholars and practitioners, including architects and urban planners, represented about 25 countries from six continents. My paper was titled “Placemaking via Community Design: Planning for Green Stormwater Infrastructure”, and was based on a research project funded by the US EPA. I presented a framework for developing a Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) plan through a participatory Geodesign process, and then applying the framework in two urban Philadelphia watersheds. Specifically, I discussed the process of using community design methods to develop conceptual site plans, combining GSI and recreational and community-building assets.