In late 2012, the Two Bridges community lost a 50,000 square foot Pathmark grocery store that had served the community for over 30 years. Exacerbated by the effects of Superstorm Sandy, residents and local businesses scrambled to fill the gap created by the loss of the Pathmark. Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, an affordable housing developer and sponsor who was critical in the attraction and development of the Pathmark, sought out Urbane Development to analyze the remaining food infrastructure in the neighborhood.
For the first phase of the project, Urbane, TBNC, and partners from Public Health Solutions and the Pratt Institute conducted two comprehensive market research efforts to ascertain the food environment in Two Bridges: a survey of 200+ food retail businesses focused on inventory, physical plant condition, and operating practices; and a series of surveys, interviews, and focus groups with over 400 local residents to determine shopping, spending, and consumption habits. A series of print guides (available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin) were developed based on the research and disseminated to community businesses, residents and institutions to help guide shopping decisions. Additionally, the project team worked with TODA Design, a graphic design agency, to develop an identity and branding platform for the project using the initial analytics developed in Phase 1.
In Phase 2, Urbane worked with TBNC to develop an innovative neighborhood culinary program, combining food tours of area retail establishments with modular cooking classes hosted at a series of community kitchen sites throughout the neighborhood. Tours and courses were designed to be hosted by residents for residents, and to target a variety of demographic groups within the community. The modularity of the program allows for residents to take advantage of programming at their convenience. As part of Phase 2, Urbane Development also held stakeholder meetings and feedback sessions with community members, conducted pilot tours and classes, and undertook a “training for trainers” program to coach potential tour and cooking class leaders.
In future project phases, Urbane and TBNC will identify a handful of local retail establishments to provide direct technical assistance, store improvements (i.e. disaster resiliency measures, physical plant upgrades, wayfinding, and equipment), as well as sourcing of quality, affordable food product. As part of the team’s “Beyond the Grid” project, the retail businesses would be part of a larger network of public housing and community facilities that would offer community-generated power, broadband, and media content to Two Bridges residents, thus creating alternatives during crisis to traditional power and communication services while offering opportunities for community-owned and –powered revenue.
Check out the alpha site for NeighborFood’s Digital Guide
Images courtesy of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and TODA Design.
Video courtesy of Landry Ndremihaja