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Nonprofit-Driven Community Capacity-Building Efforts in Community Food Systems


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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.
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Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
ISSN: 2152-0801 online
Advance online publication 1
Nonprofit-driven community capacity-building
efforts in community food systems
Mahbubur R. Meenar *
Temple University
Submitted January 8, 2015 / Revised April 22, April 30, May 18, and May 19, 2015 /
Accepted May 19, 2015 / Published online November 24, 2015
Citation: Meenar, M. R. (2015). Nonprofit-driven community capacity-building efforts in
community food systems. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.
Advance online publication.
Copyright © 2015 by New Leaf Associates, Inc.
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.
community capacity, community food systems,
nonprofit organizations, Philadelphia,
organizational capital, human capital, physical
capital, financial capital, social capital
Community capacity-building efforts in urban
neighborhoods are typically designed, catalyzed,
and funded by nonprofit organizations (NPOs)
(Chaskin, 2001). The broader purpose of this paper
is to examine how NPOs, through their commu-
nity capacity-building programs, respond to com-
munity issues. Here I summarize a Philadelphia-
based study that focused on private NPOs, such as
community-based or grassroots organizations and
community development corporations, that offered
or participated in any food-related programs,
projects, or initiatives that served their constitu-
ents. My goal is to explore how NPO programs
respond to community food insecurity and
* Dr. Mahbubur R Meenar, Assistant Director, Center for
Sustainable Communities, and Adjunct Faculty, Department o
Community & Regional Planning, Temple University;
580 Meetinghouse Road; Ambler, Pennsylvania 19002 USA;
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
ISSN: 2152-0801 online
2 Advance online publication
vulnerability in disadvantaged or disinvested urban
neighborhoods. Many NPOs play an important
role in providing or distributing food that is
physically and economically accessible, safe,
nutritious, adequate, and culturally acceptable to
vulnerable populations—meeting the conditions
set by food justice theory, which is alternatively
known as a place-based grassroots movement by
many, and is connected to literature on democracy,
citizenship, community development, community
resilience, networked social movements, and social
and environmental justice (Alkon & Agyeman,
2011; Gottlieb & Joshi, 2010; Wekerle, 2004).
Many researchers have agreed that NPO-driven
food-related projects are “the core of the food
justice movement” (Alkon & Agyeman, 2011,
p. 345).
Community food security (CFS) is a compli-
cated topic that includes three layers of food access
issues: geographic, economic, and informational
(McEntee & Agyeman, 2010). CFS means having
continuous access to adequate food for a healthy
life (Nord, Andrews, & Carlson, 2009) and to food
that is affordable, safe, nutritious, and culturally
appropriate (Anderson & Cook, 1999; Kendall &
Kennedy, 1998). Research has indicated that there
are issues associated with many community-based
food-related programs offered by NPOs, including
but not limited to spatial mismatch of needs and
services, social exclusion, and lack of coordination
among NPOs (Meenar, 2012; Meenar & Hoover,
2012). While most studies related to NPO-driven
community capacity-building efforts were focused
on actual programs such as community gardens,
few have focused on the NPOs who administered
those programs. This paper attempts to contribute
to such literature.
In this paper, I start with a brief literature
review on NPO-driven community capacity-
building efforts, followed by discussions and
interpretations of the findings from a survey and
interviews with staff of those Philadelphia-based
NPOs with any food-related programs. Finally I
discuss in detail the operational, financial, and
other challenges these NPOs face.
NPOs and Community Capacity Building
Community capacity can be understood through
social capital literature (Putnam, 1995). The defini-
tion of community capacity is based on the rela-
tionship between human, organizational, and social
capitals used to solve problems and improve a
community (Chaskin, Brown, Venkatesh, & Vidal,
2001). According to Coleman (1988), human capi-
tal is the knowledge and skills that a person has,
and social capital is formed by community mem-
bers building relationships with one another.
Community capacity can be strengthened through
four strategies: enhancing the abilities of indivi-
duals, making organizations stronger, building
relationships among individuals, and building
relationships among organizations (Chaskin, 2001).
Community capacity building has been defined
in similar ways as community capacity, as it is
synonymous with building human, social, and
organizational capital (Taylor, 2003). While capacity
is usually termed as the “ability” to carry out stated
objectives (Goodman et al., 1998), capacity build-
ing is an indefinite or continuous “process” of
improving that ability of a person, group, or
organization (Brown, Lafond, & Macintyre, 2001).
At an organizational level, capacity building may
support an ongoing approach to development that
is based on equity, empowerment, and participa-
tion of grassroots and other organizations, while
promoting inter-organizational partnerships and
networks (Labonte, Woodard, Chad, & Laverack,
The terms capacity, capacity development, and
capacity building originated from applications in
the fields of agricultural research, development,
training, and management (Baillie, Bjarnholt,
Gruber, & Hughes, 2009). Research shows that
communities that take asset- and capacity-building
approaches to development can be more successful
in meeting community needs (Flora & Flora, 2007;
Green & Haines, 2008). In addition to providing
important services, NPOs can foster civic engage-
ment and community mobilization (Twombly, De
Vita, & Garrick, 2000). A place-based community
capacity-building process includes discussions of
democracy, citizenship, and community economic
development (Fallov, 2010).
Research done by Lancaster and Smith (2010)
examined the relationship between human and
social capital and organizational resources in
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
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Advance online publication 3
addressing food insecurity problems and building
community capacity. They used community gar-
dening projects to understand such relationships.
Community gardens can increase community con-
nections, citizen participation, and sense of com-
munity, all of which in turn may help to build
social capital. Foodcentric NPOs can build
community capacity through the protection and
development of human capital (e.g., nutritional
education, cooking lessons, training, workshops,
etc.), social capital (e.g., social events, community
bonding, etc.), physical capital (e.g., vacant land
remediation, site clean-up, etc.), and natural capital
(e.g., orchard and tree plantings, sustainable energy
education, etc.).
Instead of focusing on only one type of
program, such as community gardens or farmers
markets, this paper attempts a comprehensive look
at various types of programs and activities initiated
by NPOs and how they build community capacity.
There is, however, no established framework to
assess food-related NPO-driven community
capacity-building efforts. Researchers have used
community capitals framework to define and
develop measures of community capacity
(Apaliyah, Martin, Gasteyer, Keating, & Pigg, 2012;
Emery & Flora, 2006; Mandarano, 2015; Mountjoy,
Seekamp, Davenport, & Whiles, 2014). The
variables used in this analysis are related to five
components of community capitals and are
grouped into four categories:
(i) Human capital–related variables: These include
the enhancement of individual ability (Chaskin,
2001) and cultivation of transferable
knowledge and skills (Goodman et al., 1998),
such as food-related educational and training
programs, internship and voluntary work
programs, and events;
(ii) Financial and physical capital–related variables:
These include community economic
development (Phillips & Pittman, 2009), such
as creating or retaining jobs through food-
related programs, assisting local businesses,
and producing food in vacant lands;
(iii) Social capital–related variables: These include
equity and empowerment (Coleman, 1988;
Labonte et al., 2002; Twombly et al., 2000) and
citizenship (Fallov, 2010), such as community
engagement with a focus on vulnerable
populations; and
(iv) Organizational capital–related variables
(Chaskin, 2001; Labonte et al., 2002): These
include interorganizational networks, network
density, and bridging and bonding networks.
Context, Methodology, and Data
This study was based in the city of Philadelphia,
which has a population of about 1.5 million. Food
insecurity and hunger exist in many lower-income
urban neighborhoods, and Philadelphia is no
exception. In many food-insecure neighborhoods,
disadvantaged residents do not have easy access to
healthy and fresh food, have poor food habits, and
have diet-related chronic health conditions
(Meenar & Hoover, 2012). The city, on the other
hand, is nationally known for many of its NPO-
driven initiatives and partnerships, including a
healthy corner store initiative, financial incentives
for building new grocery stores in disinvested
neighborhoods, bringing fresh food from regional
farms to the city, and distributing healthy produce
to food cupboards.
The study methodology included GIS-based
spatial network analysis, social network analysis
(e.g., network density, spatial bridging and bonding
network, etc.), and field observation of 25 food-
related events, tours, and community or stake-
holder meetings that were organized by NPOs. I
collected primary data from an online survey and
interviews of NPO representatives, as well as from
online sources, (e.g., websites, blogs, and social
networking sites).
Based on data from the Delaware Valley
Regional Planning Commission,1 GuideStar,2 the
National Center for Charitable Statistics,3 and the
Pennsylvania Community Development Corpora-
tions,4 I compiled a list of 3,182 NPOs serving
1 Metropolitan Planning Agency of Philadelphia
2 A national NPO database (
3 A national clearinghouse (
4 A citywide membership association of CDCs and affiliate
organizations (
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
ISSN: 2152-0801 online
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Philadelphia. After initial screening of their names,
descriptions, and key words, about 250 NPOs were
chosen that seemed to offer any food-related pro-
grams. Two research assistants examined every
organization’s website or social media site(s) (e.g.,
blog sites or Facebook pages) that were available,
and verified if they had any food-focused program
in any part of Philadelphia. Based on this verifica-
tion process, a list of 153 NPOs (study samples)
was finalized with contact information, such as
email addresses. This whole process took about
10 months to complete, from September 2011 to
June 2012.
A 36-question online survey, created in
Qualtrics, was active for two months, starting on
October 14, 2012, and yielded responses from
representatives of 116 NPOs (a response rate of
79%). About 18% of respondents
did not answer questions about
partnerships. Missing data were
collected through Google
searches. All of the NPOs had
some kind of online presence,
such as a website, blog site,
Facebook page, or other platform.
Generally, NPOs reported their
partnering organizations’ names
and locations, but did not always
specify types of partnerships (e.g.,
financial or working partnership).
So, categorized partnership data
were not used in this analysis.
Following the survey, semi-
structured interviews of NPO
representatives were conducted,
based on a purposeful sample
(N=38) selected from diverse
neighborhoods to maximize
heterogeneity. I conducted the
interviews from July 2012 to
September 2012; 27 were
conducted by phone, while 11
were in-person.
Results, Analysis, and
About 71% of NPOs that parti-
cipated in this survey had official
nonprofit 501(c)(3) status. Most of these organiza-
tions (43%) were established in the 2000s. Almost
all the organizations included more than one focus
area in their mission, including food distribution
(49%), community economic development (47%),
community capacity-building (45%), food educa-
tion and training (42%), food production (36%),
food justice (35%), food security (27%), and food
policy (25%).
About 52% of the NPOs were place-based and
reported having designated service areas. Among
the rest, many were either issue-based or had
citywide service areas. A few considered the entire
Philadelphia metropolitan region to be their service
area. Another category of NPOs had community-
based programs, but their programs were placed in
a number of neighborhoods. Figure 1 highlights 80
Figure 1. Map
howing the Point Locations of Philadelphia’s
Food-Related Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs), 80 of Which Had
Specific Service Area Boundaries
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
ISSN: 2152-0801 online
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NPOs that had designated service areas, ranging
from 0.08 to 66 square miles (0.2 to 171 square
kilometers), with a mean value of four square miles
(10 km2) for a service area.
Human Capital Related Variables
As part of building human capital, Philadelphia
NPOs offered or organized various types of food-
focused programs throughout the year.
Educational program participation. The
48% of NPOs that participated in this survey each
offered educational and training programs an
average of 10 times in one year. These programs
attracted a wide range of attendance, from just 5 to
300. Section (a) of Table 1 provides details by the
number of times education is offered and the
number of participants. Not included in this table
was an organization that was an outlier that offered
such programs 150 times in a year that drew a total
4,000 participants.
Internship and/or volunteer program
participation. In general, the numbers of
internships or voluntary programs offered were
half the numbers of educational or training
programs. About 67% of NPOs offered
internships or voluntary work programs up to 10
times a year. A range of one to 30 participants
enrolled in these programs, although one program
had 80 participants. See section (b) of Table 1 for
details by the number of times these opportunities
are offered and the number of participants.
Community event participation. Many
NPOs hosted or arranged food-focused events,
such as block parties, potlucks, work parties, fund-
raising events, lectures or discussions, movie or
music events, tours, and workshops (e.g., on
cooking, food preservation, drip irrigation, and
green roofs). About 76% of NPOs offered 10 or
fewer events in one year. These events were of
various scales, attracting a wide range of
participants, from only 5 to 20,000 people.
However, about 75% of these events had fewer
than 100 participants. Only two NPOs reported
that their events attracted the greatest number of
visitors (10,000 and 20,000 visitors). Section (c) of
Table 1 provides a detailed breakdown by the
number of times these events are offered and the
number of participants.
Financial and Physical Capital Related Variables
Job creation and retention. About 71% of the
NPOs that participated in this survey reported that
their food-related projects created or retained one
to 10 jobs during the last 12 months. About 19%
reported creating or retaining 11 to 25 jobs, and
the rest reported creating or retaining 26 or more
Table 1. Program and Event Participation by NPOs
NPOs (%) Times Offered in a Year No. of Participants (Range)
(a) Educational and Training Programs
48.28% 10 and fewer 5 to 300
27.58% 11 to 25 85 to 500
24.14% 26 and more (highest reported: 69) 100 to 800
(b) Internships and Voluntary Work Programs
66.67% 10 and fewer 1 to 30 (one program had 80 participants)
9.52% 11 to 25 4 to 35 (one program had 150 participants)
23.81% 26 and more (highest reported: 52) 5 to 100 (one program had 4,000 participants)
(c) Events
75.82% 10 and fewer 5 to 20,000 (75% of the events had under
100 participants)
14.29% 11 to 25 8 to 300
9.89% 26 and more (highest reported: 100) 10 to 150
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
ISSN: 2152-0801 online
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jobs. A few NPOs that were involved in urban
agriculture (UA) mentioned that they hired full-
time employees only during the growing season. In
terms of the numbers of full-time and part-time
staff, the organizations varied greatly. The largest
NPO reported 200 full-time staff and no part-time
staff. On the other hand, 17% of NPOs reported
that they had no full-time staff and only 1 to 4
part-time staff, and they relied mostly on voluntary
services. The largest proportion (39%) reported
that they had 6 to 30 full-time staff and up to 20
part-time staff.
Assistance to local businesses. About 72%
of NPOs that responded to the survey reported
that they assisted other organizations or local
businesses, including monetary, labor, technical,
informational, or other forms of assistance such as
consulting, grant-writing, training, and designing
gardens and plantings.
Vacant land remediation. About 71% of the
NPOs that participated in this survey had some
kind of UA program. About 59% of organizations
remediated vacant land for food production in
their service areas. The NPOs managed a wide
range of city parcels, from 1 to 30, located either in
a single or multiple neighborhoods. One NPO rep-
resentative responded that the organization
maintained 2,000 prop-
erties, equivalent to 10
million square feet
(930,000 square meters)
of land. The nature of
land ownership varied as
well; 48% of the NPOs
had an agreement with
private property owners,
31% owned lands, 21%
practiced guerrilla garden-
ing, in which they garden
on land they do not have
the legal right to utilize,
and 17% had a lease from
the city.
Social Capital Related
Engagement of
vulnerable population.
About 33% of the NPOs that participated in this
survey reported that at least three-quarters of their
programs, if not all, were targeted toward
vulnerable or disadvantaged populations (e.g., older
adults, lower-income, minority, refugees, ethnic
groups, and minority religious groups). About 28%
responded that their programs were open to all.
“We do not target specific group of populations,
our programs are all-inclusive,” was one comment.
Detailed data are available in Figure 2. Answering a
follow-up question, about 76% of NPOs said their
events were free and 10% said their events were
donation-based. Only 15% charged a fee, ranging
from US$5 to US$65 per event. About 58% of
organizations that had any produce-selling
programs accepted payments via either one or
more types of government assistance cards (e.g.,
EBT, WIC). In this way they engaged lower-
income families or individuals and contributed to
the overall economic development of their service
Community engagement. When asked about
the approximate ratio of attendees in programs or
events that came from the NPO service areas,
about 10% of the respondents said that 50% of
attendees came from their service areas, while the
rest came from other parts of the city or even the
Figure 2. Percentage of Surveyed Nonprofit Organizations’ (NPOs’) Programs
That They Report Are Targeted Toward Vulnerable Populations
Prog rams tha t are op en to all
Percentage of programs targeted
toward vulner able/
disadvantaged populations
Percentage of NPOs
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suburbs. About 77% of NPOs reported that their
events and programs primarily attracted local
residents, saying that about 75% to 100% of the
attendees attended from their own constituencies.
About 13% of NPO respondents said that they did
not know the location of their participants and that
they never asked for this information.
In response to a question about community
engagement, “How often does your organization
host meetings with community members or stake-
holders to plan activities and events?” about 31%
NPOs reported that they hosted such meetings at
least once a month, or once in six months.
Approximately 14% of these NPOs said that they
never had such meetings or never communicated
with their constituents in this way. See details in
Figure 3. About 95% of the community meetings
had an attendance ranging from 5 to 50 people,
depending on the size of the
NPOs, the type of
programs, and the size of
their service areas. Only two
respondents claimed that
they were able to attract up
to 100 community
participants in such
The next question was
about the ways in which
NPOs communicated with
their constituents. About
94% of NPOs that
responded to this question
used digital communication
highly or the most
Table 2. Methods of Communication with Constituents Reported by
Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs)
Communication Type
% of NPOs
High Use
% of NPOs
Medium Use
% of NPOs
Low Use
Digital Communication a 94% 0% 6%
Print Mediab 41% 34% 25%
In-Person Communicationc 71% 18% 12%
Through Local Newspapers 7% 33% 60%
Other 50% 25% 25%
a Email, social media announcement or message, text message, website announcement, etc.
b Letter, leaflet, newsletter, brochure, poster, etc.
c Door-to-door outreach, social gathering, phone call, etc.
Note: Percentage calculated out of total responses in one particular category, not all responses in
all categories. Total percentage rates differ, because not all NPOs answered in each category and
few NPOs reported high use of both types of communications.
0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35%
At l east o nce a month
At l east o nce in six month s
At least once a year
Figure 3. Percent of Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) Hosting Meetings with Community Members
by Frequency of Meetings
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frequently, whereas 71% had high use of in-person
communication. These two categories were not
mutually exclusive. NPOs also used print media,
local newspapers, and other categories such as
“events,” “word of mouth,” and “community
education workshops.” Details of these findings
along with an explanation of the communication
types are provided in Table 2.
Since this study had a special interest in
disadvantaged neighborhoods that may have a
digital divide issue, there were a few additional
questions about digital communication. Most
NPOs that used digital communication used email
listservs as the primary media. The number of
listserv members varied from 10 to 25,000. About
93% of these NPOs also had either a designated
website or a blog site. In terms of social media,
91% used Facebook; some used Twitter, YouTube,
and other platforms. In social media, they posted
various types of content and also welcomed
contributions from their users or fans. Tables 3
and 4 provide details. The final question about
digital community engagement was “Do users’
comments posted on your website, blog, or social
network sites influence the organization’s
activities?” Only 38% NPOs said yes.
Organizational Capital Related Variables
Organizational capacity. The annual operating
budget of the participant NPOs varied greatly.
There were a few grassroots organizations without
any operating budget, but 4% of NPOs had a
budget above US$10 million, 27% had budgets of
US$1 to US$10 million, 22% had budgets of
US$100,000 to under US$1 million, 14% had
budgets of US$10,000 to under US$100,000, and
6% had budgets below US$10,000. About 27% of
survey participants did not respond to this
Spatial network analysis (SPNA). Visual-
izing the spatial network connections of all NPOs
was probably the most exploratory and time-
consuming task of this study. After collecting data
on partnerships between all the NPOs, these
network connections were drawn using AutoCAD
software. This drawing was done on top of a
scaled map of Philadelphia with actual
organizational locations. Figure 4 features
interorganizational networks (IONs) as line
connections for NPOs that were included in this
study. The straight or curved nature of line
connections had no bearing on the significance or
types of connections; they were chosen according
to the ease or clarity of drawing. As interpreted
from this figure, more NPOs were spatially
concentrated toward the central part of the city
(Center City), so naturally this area had a higher
presence of network connection lines. The 38
NPOs that did not report any partners were left
alone as single points without any connections.
The ION is spread throughout a portion of the
whole city, not concentrated in some smaller
“network neighborhoods,” as described by Hipp,
Faris, and Boessen (2012).
able 3. Types of Content Nonprofit Organizations
(NPOs) Usually Shared Through Social Media
Content % of NPOs
Event and program announcements 97%
Information sharing 82%
Post-event stories 70%
Educational posts 64%
Commentary 48%
Local and national policy tidbits 48%
Politically motivated messages 12%
Other 12%
able 4. Types of Content People Usually
Shared Through Nonprofit Organizations’
(NPOs’) Social Media Platforms
Content % of NPOs
Information sharing 70%
Post-event feedback 60%
Commentary 57%
Program feedback 50%
Educational posts 33%
Local and national policy tidbits 27%
Other 7%
Politically motivated messages 3%
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Spatial bridging and bonding networks.
The Origin-Destination Matrix tool available in the
GIS software ArcGIS Network Analyst Extension
was used to locate these NPOs and their partners,
display network connections and directions, and
calculate the length (geodesic distance) of each
network. Three examples are provided in Figure 5.
According to this analysis, 65% of NPOs formed
Figure 4. Interorganizational Network of Food-related Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) with
Other NPOs with Similar Agendas
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partnerships with at least one NPO located outside
of their planning districts (we refer to these as
spatial “bridging” partners). In contrast, 44% of
NPOs made partnerships with at least one NPO
located within the same planning district (we refer
to it as spatial “bonding” partners). NPOs with
higher numbers of spatial bridging partners were
mostly located in the Central District. Most inter-
viewees considered these NPOs to be key or cen-
tral players in Philadelphia’s food systems network.
It was observed that the more spatial bridging
networks an NPO had, the more central it was to
the whole organizational network. This interpreta-
tion is consistent with Kropczynski and Nah
(2011). Although distance was a factor for some
networks (the majority of network lengths were in
the range of only 2 to 5 miles, or 3 to 8 kilometers),
a few networks went beyond the city limit,
expanding to the inner-ring suburbs, rural
Pennsylvania, and even the neighboring state of
New Jersey. NPOs, however, did not prioritize any
specific geographic boundaries when they chose a
partner, either bonding or bridging.
Interorganizational network. The majority
of NPOs (81%) said that they were
related to other NPOs because they
received funding, such as direct funds,
transfer of funds, or subcontracts, from
those NPOs. The same percentage of
NPOs partnered with other NPOs to
execute a program or policy. More
details on the types of partnerships are
provided in Table 5.
There were a few organizations that
formed short-term financial
partnerships with other NPOs. These partnerships
often were manifested in the form of donations
and tools or volunteer exchanges. On the other
hand, there were a few organizations that partnered
with big for-profit companies, most often in order
to receive financial or food donations. Regardless
of these factors, it is evident from this survey that
most NPOs were partnered with not only other
NPOs, but also with the government and for-profit
The interviews and field observations not only
supported the findings from the survey, but also
explained the ION patterns in the city. It was not
distance or geographic boundary, but common
agenda, power, or political interest that these food-
focused NPOs were considering while choosing
partners. Competition was one of the key reasons
many NPOs did not want to form partnerships in
the same neighborhood. One NPO representative
explained this pattern:
We make partnerships with [other NPOs]
when there is a match.…Either there is a
common interest, a grant proposal, or a
Table 5. Types of Interorganizational Partnerships
Types of Partnerships % of NPOs
Received funding (grants, donations, sponsorships, etc.) 81%
Executed a program or policy together 81%
Wrote grant proposals together 67%
Provided funding (grants, donations, sponsorships, etc.) 28%
Other 8%
Figure 5. Example of Three Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) (in Circles)
and Their Other NPO Partners (in Squares)
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project.…Yes, distance does matter, it’s
always great to have a partner in the same
neighborhood, but we need more than
that…say “power.” [NPOs] in the Center City
have the political and economic power to
make things happen.…We need [a] continu-
ous funding stream. Partnering with [NPOs
with “power”] makes more sense [compared
to] partnering with a small organization in
your neighborhood that may not even last
more than a year. (An interviewee from the
West Philadelphia District)
Many smaller NPOs did not have enough staff
support to pursue funding and partners. One NPO
representative shared an opinion that reflected
similar sentiments to another small NPO:
Yes, [we are a] small organization. We care
about food access issues and we are trying our
best to bring some positive changes in the
neighborhood landscape with the help of
volunteers and community participants. Yes,
partnerships are good, but as long as there is a
common focus on the issues [of our own
neighborhood]. We tried to participate in
bigger forums and whatnot.…They discuss
issues from city or regional perspectives. It’s
all good, but we [want to] be focused on our
neighborhood for now. Yes, we don’t get
much visibility, attention, or news coverage,
and that is okay as long as we are able to
function. (An interviewee from the North
Many NPOs raised concerns about insecurity
or inconsistency in an established network:
It’s great to be a part of a big, visible network,
but we need to make sure smaller NPOs can
survive without the help or dependency from
bigger [NPOs]. In recent times we have seen
that [some] long-term [programs] are being
discontinued due to lack of funding or the
change in administration in a foundation.
What if an [NPO] is being unplugged from
the system? What would happen to the
[organizational] network? If two or three
actors are thrown out of an established
network, will the [network] safety net work?
The [network] graph of NPOs is not
monolithic—there will be rises and falls. (An
interviewee from the University/Southwest
Challenges Faced by NPOs
NPOs that participated in this study reported
facing a number of general challenges. According
to most NPOs, the key challenges were related to
organizational and physical/financial capitals. Table
6 provides a list of challenges, two of which were
relevant only to the NPOs focusing on the alter-
native food movement (e.g., community gardens,
farmers markets, community supported agricul-
ture). The challenges were ranked based on their
importance to these NPOs.
Administrative and Budgetary Issues
Most NPOs reported that administrative and
budgetary issues are at the top of their list. With a
larger budget they would be able to put more effort
into educating the public on the value of buying
local or eating nutritious food. Organizational
challenges were also faced due to limited staff
support. Many NPOs consisted of a group of
volunteers; due to inadequate staff capacity, they
could not perform program evaluation, which is
one of the key deliverables for many grants. NPOs
also reported that they found it difficult to respond
to many funding requests for proposals (RFPs) due
to the lack of clarity of organizational mission and
criteria for eligibility for grant applications. This
limited their funding further.
The lack of infrastructural investment was
considered as a major challenge for many smaller
NPOs. For example, most food cupboards did not
have a refrigerator to store perishable food, includ-
ing vegetables. They also did not have the capacity
to collect, store, and distribute leftover foods from
events and meetings. Budgetary issues caused
inconsistency with quality and quantity of services.
Cupboards denied potential clients or did not have
enough food storage. Quality also varied to a great
extent; they mostly distributed canned goods with
limited nutritional value.
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Collaboration and Coordination Issues
The responses regarding their organizational net-
works showed that 38 NPOs had no partners at all.
Some NPOs had only short-term financial partner-
ships with others. These partnerships were often
manifested in the form of donations, tools, or
volunteer exchanges. On the other hand, there
were a few organizations that partnered mostly
with large, for-profit companies for financial or
food donations.
In terms of evaluating potential partnerships,
most NPOs preferred common interests or
agendas, financial standing, and political connec-
tions over geographic proximity. This finding is
consistent with Chen and Graddy (2010). Since
most larger and issue-based NPOs were located in
the Central District, many place-based NPOs
rooted in different neighborhoods were connected
with them, regardless of their distances or geo-
graphic boundaries. This tendency led to a particu-
lar pattern in the city, where the most “visible”
NPOs were the ones that made partnerships with
larger NPOs, were featured in the media, inter-
viewed by university researchers and students, and
invited to the policy-making process. On the con-
trary, many smaller NPOs, although working hard
on the ground and in their own neighborhoods,
did not get the attention they needed to promote
their programs or attract new volunteers.
According to many NPOs, “collaborating with
the right community partners to ensure long-term
success” was a key challenge. Partnerships between
NPOs most often are dependent on successful past
collaborations and the trust generated among them
(Bess, Speer, & Perkins, 2012; Kegler, Rigler, &
Honeycutt, 2010). Unlike what Strauss (2010)
suggested, NPOs studied in this research project
formed more bridging partnerships than bonding,
geographically speaking. Although NPOs within
the same neighborhood always competed with one
another to catch a funder’s attention, there was no
alternative to strengthening coordination and
partnerships, not only among NPOs, but also with
other organizations such as government agencies
and institutions.
Uncertain Longevity, Financial Returns,
and Availability of Programs
Although various indirect benefits of food-related
programs and events were found, the direct contri-
bution of these programs to the economic devel-
opment of areas was somewhat limited. Most jobs
created through these programs were not perma-
nent, not full-time, not well-paid, and did not offer
any fringe benefits.
Discontinuity of programs can become a major
barrier in forming organizational partnerships.
Philadelphia has witnessed a sharp decline in com-
munity gardens since the 1970s after the discontin-
uation of critical resources, including major fund-
Table 6. Challenges Faced by Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs), Ranked by Importance
Relevance to Type
of NPOs
Relevance to Type of Community
Capacity Variables Rank
Administrative and budgetary issues All types Physical/financial capital, organizational
capital 1
Unreliable and/or unreachable
collaboration partners All types Organizational capital 2
Uncertain longevity, financial returns,
and availability of programs Alternative food agencies Physical/financial capital, organizational
capital 2
Spatial mismatch of services All types Human capital, physical/financial capital 3
Lack of local and diverse community
participation All types Social capital 3
Unfavorable city policy and neighbor-
hood atmosphere Alternative food agencies Physical/financial capital, organizational
capital 4
Lack of informational access All types Organizational capital 5
Note: Rank (1 to 5: higher to lower importance) in terms of importance of challenges, according to NPOs.
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ing streams. It took almost two decades to explore
new networks and find new funding sources for
them. Since NPOs are often considered to be
anchors and great resources to community life,
many public and grant-providing agencies are
interested in building their organizational capaci-
ties. Problems arise when programs start becoming
successful and then are discontinued because of an
obsolete funding stream.
Many programs and events organized by these
NPOs, especially the smaller ones, are run mostly
by volunteers. These volunteers are temporary;
sometimes they participate as part of a service-
learning course or school project, or due to work
requirements. They thus do not have a long-term
commitment to the programming of the NPO and
do not continue volunteering after their short-term
Spatial Mismatch of Services
NPOs reported three types of spatial mismatch.
The first type is related to hunger relief agencies.
About 700 food cupboards are located throughout
the city, but some high-poverty areas either do not
have cupboards or have cupboards with limited
inventory and operating hours. This problem was
also identified and explained by Meenar (2012).
The second type of spatial mismatch is related to
healthy food outlets. Some areas, typically known
as food deserts, do not have affordable healthy
food outlets, be they full-scale grocery stores or
farmers markets. Due to lack of clientele for
healthy food, the presence of crime, and lower
population density, along with significant vacant
and underutilized lands and properties, many chain
grocery stores do not want to invest in these
underprivileged neighborhoods. Due to unhealthy
food habits or expensive healthy food, or miscon-
ceptions about healthy food prices, some residents
may not make the effort to shop at grocery stores
or farmers markets that are not easily accessible.
The third type of mismatch is related to NPOs that
administer urban food production and nutrition
education or community development–related
projects. In some parts of city, a group of people
who are mostly nonresident volunteers may start
community gardening projects that are not fully
supported or embraced by local residents. Al-
though they organize community events targeted
toward nutrition education or community capacity
building in that community, most participants may
come from other parts of the city. Researchers
have identified such areas as White spaces in Black
or Latino/a places (see Meenar & Hoover, 2012,
and Hoover, 2013).
Lack of Local and Diverse Community Participation
For many NPOs, engaging neighbors or volunteers
in regular program decision-making and organiza-
tional development is an ongoing challenge. This
may be more important in neighborhoods with
diverse populations, including racially and ethni-
cally diverse populations, immigrant populations,
and economically diverse populations. NPOs
struggle with outreach techniques that would be
appropriate and consistent with such diversity.
Most NPOs appreciated feedback on their
programs and events from neighborhood stake-
holders or residents, but they did not necessarily
incorporate this feedback into their decision-
making process. Community meetings targeted
toward the participation and engagement of local
residents were not offered on a regular basis.
NPOs usually received feedback through social
media, email, or other tools only after the events or
programs were over. Although soliciting comments
or ideas prior to a program or event could be more
useful or effective, many NPOs claimed that they
could not attract many participants even though
they offered such community meetings. On the
other hand, in the event that feedback was pro-
vided by the residents and stakeholders, only a few
NPOs were able to incorporate those comments
into the planning process of future events. Lack of
clarity or usefulness of the suggestions was a key
In terms of civic engagement tools, it was
surprising to see that digital methods were used at
a higher level than in-person communication
methods. This might be an appropriate approach
to attract the primary clientele group of these pro-
grams and events, the majority of whom were
young and tech-savvy people. However, consider-
ing that a good portion of the NPOs’ programs
were targeted toward a disadvantaged population,
the question of the impact of any digital divide
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would arise, as these NPOs are missing a signifi-
cant proportion of the community they are trying
to serve.
Unfavorable City Policy and Neighborhood
This challenge, also referred to as “political road-
blocks or bad policy,” was mentioned primarily by
NPOs dedicated to the alternative food movement.
They complained about the lack of an organized
UA constituency, resource scarcity influencing an
organization’s unwillingness to collaborate, and
unwillingness of city administration to fully recog-
nize the value of UA. Some NPOs mentioned that
designated land use, even if land is currently vacant,
may be a barrier in obtaining permission to do UA.
Getting water access for irrigation was another
barrier. Many NPOs supporting gardens “see land
tenure as key to preserving these UA projects that
represent the community’s legacy. Without land
tenure or land use protections, many gardens have
been lost, due to development pressure, when cities
have sold UA spaces or allowed them to go to
sheriff’s sale” (Meenar, Featherstone, Cahn, &
McCabe, 2012, p. 6). Unfriendly or harsh neighbor-
hood conditions also jeopardize the operations of
many UA projects. A few NPOs that participated
in this study shared their frustration with levels of
neighborhood crime and the types of vandalism
their projects faced.
Lack of Informational Access
Although the programs and events offered by
these NPOs primarily targeted people from their
service areas, some of them attracted participants
from all over the city—sometimes even at a higher
rate. Most NPOs could not or did not regularly
track their participants’ locations. Lack of such
locational data is a challenge for these NPOs,
potential project funders, and researchers. In
particular, the lack of or limited level of data on
hunger relief recipients is critical. Even if available
to a limited extent, such data are not compre-
hensive, not available in a ready-to-use format, not
shared with public or other agencies, and not
updated on regular basis. This creates barriers to
the analysis and understanding of location-specific
needs (Meenar, 2012).
Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
By taking the city of Philadelphia as a case
example, this research has documented how NPOs
attempt to build community capacity through a
variety of food-related projects, programs, and
events. The analysis was primarily based on the
NPO contribution to the following community
capitals: human, physical and financial, social, and
organizational. Based on the findings and discus-
sions in this study, it can be concluded that most
Philadelphia-based food-related NPOs are gener-
ally trying to improve a range of community capi-
tals in order to make a contribution to the overall
community capacity. While a majority of NPOs are
able to contribute more in improving human and
social capitals, they face a number of challenges as
well, mostly related to organizational and financial/
physical capitals. Here I offer some policy sugges-
tions for these NPOs. In order to increase their
effectiveness in improving community capacity, the
NPOs not only need assistance in responding the
challenges mentioned in this paper, but also need
to take their own initiatives in three areas:
(1) Making or strengthening coordination
efforts with smaller, neighborhood-based
NPOs. Community-based NPOs require “greater
decision-making power in the policy-making
process and resource autonomy for policy imple-
mentation” (Silverman, 2004, p. 2). This is
especially important for smaller NPOs and
grassroots initiatives in lower-income and minority
neighborhoods. Better network connections need
to be made with these NPOs in order to hear their
voices, increase their visibility in the larger policy
discussions (e.g., regarding zoning ordinances,
citywide dialogue on food justice, etc.), and ensure
their participation in the local food movement,
which is primarily led by young, White, and
middle-class activists. In order to achieve food
justice, it is important to have representation of
NPOs from disadvantaged and diverse neighbor-
hoods in the citywide policy discussions and plan-
implementation processes. Two examples of
grassroots and community-based NPO coalitions
in Philadelphia are the Campaign to Take Back
Vacant Land ( and
its recent food and garden-based offshoot, Soil
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Generation (formerly Healthy Foods Green
Lack of coordination is very common among
smaller NPOs such as hunger relief agencies
(Meenar, 2012). Smaller NPOs, in most cases,
cannot increase their connectivity, as they do not
have the staff support to reach out to potential
partners or maintain an informal relationship. This
is consistent with the findings by Lewis, Scott,
D’Urso, and Davis (2008). This does not mean,
however, that the network itself is flawed. Perhaps
community-based, smaller NPOs do not need to
be interconnected in that way, as long as their
projects (such as community gardens) are grounded
in the neighborhoods and well-connected to local
residents. But advocacy, outreach, and
membership-based NPOs that have citywide or
even regional service areas need to be closely
connected to smaller, community-based NPOs that
oversee actual on-the-ground projects.
Although NPOs always compete with one
another to catch a funder’s attention, there is no
alternative to strengthening coordination and
partnerships not only among NPOs, but also with
other organizations such as governments and insti-
tutions. Coordination efforts among NPOs and
smaller agencies can be made stronger at both the
local and state levels. Pennsylvania’s Inter-Agency
Council on Food and Nutrition proposed a blue-
print for a hunger-free Pennsylvania by recognizing
the fact that state government alone cannot address
hunger or eliminate chronic food insecurity by
2020—a goal announced by the state in 2007.
(2) Engaging local and diverse stakeholders in
the decision making process. Most community-
based NPOs in Philadelphia work closely with
neighborhood residents, regardless of their age,
income, and race. Geographically, the majority of
those residents who are active participants of
community-based programs live within walking
distance (a quarter of a mile or 0.4 km) of a project
site such as a community garden (Meenar &
Hoover, 2012). However, White, middle-class,
young people are more actively involved in such
programs and activities, even if those are located in
a predominantly Black or Latino/a spaces (Meenar
& Hoover, 2012). Other research suggests that
African Americans participate less in the alternative
food movement because recent programs have
become “unbearably white” (Guthman, 2011) in
many places.
NPOs need to explore new avenues to better
connect with minority populations and engage
them in their activities, as well as in decision-
making or the planning and development pro-
cesses. It is not about “educating” or “enlighten-
ing” them, but involving those individuals who are
interested in such activities but may feel estranged
from formal programs. A grassroots initiative in a
neighborhood, or one initiated by an NPO that has
worked in the neighborhood for a long period of
time and earned the trust of neighborhood resi-
dents, will usually have a higher chance of success.
Research suggests that “trust is a stronger prerequi-
site for, than an outcome of, civic engagement”
(Jennings & Stoker, 2004, p. 370). Problems arise
when an NPO with a citywide network decides to
start a project in a specific neighborhood without
any prior discussion and partnership with local
residents. Many times those are the projects that
become prone to vandalism. In addition, trust can
be increased by implementing feedback or
comments received from stakeholders via both
traditional and digital communication methods.
(3) Addressing spatial mismatch issues. Geo-
graphic clustering of NPOs may seem important
for providing synergy and facilitating collaboration;
however, it is crucial for at least those NPOs that
provide direct or on-the-ground services to be
located in neighborhoods where most people live
and need their services. The absence of this pattern
will prolong spatial mismatch issues. Although
NPOs need to consider a number of factors,
including availability of office space, public safety,
transportation routes, zoning restrictions, or
community support, it is important that NPOs
engaging community residents in their capacity-
building efforts are literally grounded in those
neighborhoods and earn community trust. Active
support from government agencies can play a
crucial role in minimizing gaps in service or spatial
mismatch issues. Such support may come in the
form of direct collaboration between government
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agencies and NPOs to administer projects targeted
to disadvantaged or disinvested neighborhoods,
and assessment of the outcomes of such projects
through research and publications. Philadelphia’s
health department has such partnerships with The
Food Trust, which has become an important
collaboration behind projects such increasing the
number of farmers markets and healthy corner
stores in lower-income neighborhoods.
In conclusion, I present the merit and limita-
tions of this study and possible future research
topics. According to the knowledge of this author,
no other study has systematically analyzed the key
challenges faced by urban NPOs that try to build
community capacity through food-related pro-
grams and policies. At the same time, no other
study has applied a combination of community
capitals framework and spatial network analysis to
food-related NPOs. These two would be consid-
ered to be the key contributions of this research to
the literature on NPO capacity-building in food
systems work. Although the study was based on
Philadelphia-area NPOs, the findings and discus-
sions are applicable and transferable to similar
This study does have limitations. Learning
local residents’ opinions about the projects or
programs of the NPOs in their neighborhoods
could have provided an in-depth understanding of
the role of NPOs in building community capacity,
but this potentially time-consuming and expensive
step was beyond the scope of this study. Engaging
residents in such discussions should be the next
logical step. This could be paired with a detailed
spatial social network analysis of food-related
projects and their participants. In addition, this
study could have benefited from some discussions
on cultural and natural capitals, which again could
be included in follow-up research. Finally, this
study could have been more effective and complete
if more detailed and reliable data on financial
capital were available. This may include systematic
data on organizational budgets, surpluses, and
expenses; job creation and retention; employee
salaries and benefits; and dissolution or turnover
rates. The economic development aspect of food-
related research will be a key research agenda in the
near future.
It would not be possible for me to undertake this
study without the support from Philadelphia’s
nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to local
food systems, food justice, and food insecurity
issues. I would like to thank those administrative
staff, managers, grassroots activists, and com-
munity organizers. I acknowledge Dr. Deborah
Howe, Dr. Lynn Mandarano, Dr. Michele
Masucci, and three anonymous JAFSCD reviewers
for their constructive feedback on an early draft of
this paper. Finally, I would like to thank five
students of the Department of Community and
Regional Planning at Temple University who
assisted me with data collection, data processing,
and field visits: Gregory App, Jason Hachadorian,
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... Positive impacts were recognized for resilience, self-reliance, and social, economic, and environmental sustainability [1]. Central for modern cities is the role of UA toward social-related aspects and pressing issues, such as food security, community capacity, and equitable food systems [2,3]. In addition, involvement in growing practices and food production can contribute to community services and charity, education and social inclusion, as well as a tool for nonprofit organizations and food planners to achieve their missions with disadvantaged communities [4,5]. ...
... Considering that the whole population requirement is equal to 1,797,889,847 MJ/year, consequently, the population consumption is equal to 870% and 393% of energy derived from wheat and maize, respectively. Percentage of self-sufficiency is calculated as a ratio of current vegetable consumption (per strata) and total vegetable production in the study area. 1 Average Italian consumption of vegetables, fresh, and processed based on population age strata, males, and females [43]. 2 Vegetables production (yield t/ha) in Table 3. 3 Whole area is equal to 2637.47 ha and corresponds to the sum of arable land and gardens (see Table 3). Percentage of self-sufficiency is calculated as a ratio of current energy consumption (per strata) and total energy production in the study area. 1 Average Italian consumption of cereals, cereals products, and substitutes [43]. 2 Energy value wheat, soft white: 14.2351 MJ per 1000 g [44]. ...
... Percentage of self-sufficiency is calculated as a ratio of current energy consumption (per strata) and total energy production in the study area. 1 Average Italian consumption of cereals, cereals products, and substitutes [43]. 2 Energy value wheat, soft white: 14.2351 MJ per 1000 g [44]. 3 Energy value corn grain, yellow: 15.0725 MJ per 1000 g [44]. ...
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Urban agriculture in Global North cities is strongly promoted as a sustainable solution to achieve different goals, such as food production, quality of life, and well-being. Although several attempts have been made to evaluate urban agriculture production, few studies have investigated food production in a multitemporal geospatial way and considered per capita population needs, gender, and age strata consumption. This study presents a spatiotemporal quantification of urban agriculture in the city of Milan (Italy) for assessing food self-provisioning potential. We utilized high-resolution Google Earth images and ancillary data to create a detailed cadaster of urban agriculture for the years 2007 and 2014. Based on four scenarios of food production and statistical data on vegetables and cereals consumption, we estimated current total production and requirements for the city dwellers. Our results showed that the actual extension of vegetable gardens (98 ha) and arable land (2539 ha) in the best scenario could satisfy approximately 63,700 and 321,000 consumers of vegetables and cereal products, respectively. Overall, current urban agriculture production is not able to meet vegetables and cereal consumption for more than 1.3 million city residents. Scenario estimates suggest rethinking land use promoting horticultural production to achieve more sustainable food systems.
... Community-based organizations (CBOs) are a common entry point to examine the processes and outcomes of localized and/or alternative agrifood system initiatives, especially in urban environments (Drake and Lawson 2015;McClintock and Simpson 2017;Meenar 2015). CBOs are increasingly recognized for their roles across many different efforts to improve food and agricultural systems but are particularly noted for their contributions-and challenges-in addressing community food security (Alkon and Agyeman 2011;Anderson 2013;McCullum et al. 2004;Phillips and Wharton 2016;Sbicca 2012;Slocum 2006). ...
... Like many CBOs, those engaged in community food security work are constrained by organizational capacity and resources. In a study of Philadelphia-based food systems-oriented CBOs, Meenar (2015) found they struggled with administrative and budgetary issues; lack of and/ or poor community partnerships; uncertain longevity and availability of programs; spatial mismatch of programs; lack of local participation; unfavorable city policy and neighborhood atmosphere; and lack of informational access. In their work with similar CBOs in Ontario, Canada, Wakefield et al. (2013) found that this work may unintentionally reproduce the economic and social structural inequalities that create food security problems in the first place-and the limitations faced by CBOs further constrains their ability to become more effective advocates. ...
... CBO participation in collaborative networks has been noted as a solution to address the challenges they face (Meenar 2015;Wakefield et al. 2013). While a wealth of scholarship that examines collaboration between organizations exists more generally, there is a lack of research on specific processes, outcomes, and barriers of collaboration between CBOs working in the realm of community food security. ...
Community‐based organizations (CBOs) are a common entry point to examine the activities, processes, and outcomes of community food security initiatives. Collaborative, inter‐organizational networks are implemented in practice, policy, and research to address the many capacity and resource challenges faced by CBOs. This study examines the role of a broker organization, Grow Appalachia, in facilitating community food security work across the rural region of Central Appalachia. Integrating findings from staff interviews (N = 26), partner site coordinator and staff survey (N = 32), document analysis, and 4 months of participant observation, this study identifies the “rules” implemented by the Grow Appalachia organization across its six‐state service region. Four main rules are identified through the data analysis: “Being In and Of the Community,” “Providing a Hand Up, Not a Hand Out,” “Cultivating Science‐Assisted Craft/Mountain Agriculture,” and “Promoting Sustainability for Self‐Sufficiency.” While these rules—and associated program practices—are found to support increased organizational capacity, community buy‐in, relationship building, and self‐sufficiency, they were also associated with Grow Appalachia staff burnout and exclusion of marginalized populations from program and network participation. Overall, the benefits of the rules outweigh the costs, but still undermine the overall community food security mission of the broker organization and its network.
... While scholars have discussed the pitfalls of using ''God's eye view'' GIS in food environment research and suggested alternative methods such as critical GIS (see a review by Shannon, 2012), the potential contribution of participatory and mixed-methods GIS to food environment literature is still largely unknown. Only a few studies have used a combination of qualitative methods and GIS (see Knigge and Cope, 2006;Meenar, 2015;Meenar and Hoover, 2012;Preston and Wilson, 2014), and the use of PGIS methods in such studies is even scarcer (see Preston and Wilson, 2014;Quinn and Yapa, 2016). ...
... As a follow-up exercise, the PFIVI map can be compared with locations of Philadelphia's existing community gardens, farmers markets, food cupboards, and other NPO-driven foodrelated programs (see Meenar, 2015). Such an analysis would be helpful to understand NPOdriven interventions in areas with high-or medium-PFIVI scores. ...
This paper discusses the development of a Place-Based Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Index (PFIVI), which incorporates six indicators and 30 variables. It also presents an application of this Index within the context of Philadelphia, a postindustrial U.S. city. The paper argues that in order to thoroughly measure a multidimensional socioeconomic problem that is tied to the built environment (e.g., food insecurity and vulnerability), the use of participatory and mixed-methods approaches in GIS (e.g., participatory GIS or PGIS) may produce more comprehensive results compared to other commonly used methods. This paper makes an intervention in the food environment literature, which tends to analyze food access in a narrow way, by applying a methodology conceptually grounded in community food security and operationalized through a PGIS project. It also contributes to still-evolving PGIS methodologies by directly engaging stakeholders in a complicated GIS-based analytical process. (Download full paper from
... Urban agriculture can provide ecosystem services similar to that of more generic green infrastructure like rain gardens, with some notable additions, especially local and culturally relevant food production (Meenar & Hoover, 2012;Taylor & Ard, 2015). Urban agriculture can also provide benefits associated with education (Reynolds & Cohen, 2016), community resilience (Meenar, 2015), and community well-being (Ambrose et al, 2020). Still, as with other forms of green infrastructure (Lyytimäki et al., 2008;Pataki et al., 2011), there are potential disservices associated with urban agriculture, especially its role in attracting pests and its interaction with contaminated soils (Russo et al., 2017;Wilhelm & Smith, 2018). ...
Urban agriculture, experiencing a resurgence across the Global North, features prominently in food system sustainability and urban resilience discourse, planning, and policy. Research, however, indicates that racialized gentrification tends to accompany urban agriculture, similar to a phenomenon documented with other green space. This study used remote sensing to map home (N = 478) and community (N = 130) gardens across Detroit, an emblematic legacy city undergoing significant redevelopment. Despite being a city in which seventy-eight percent of the residents are Black, spatial regression revealed that gardens in Detroit are actually more prevalent in non-Black-neighborhoods. Community gardens predominate in neighborhoods where residents are younger, wealthier, and college-educated, while home gardens are more numerous in areas with high rates of home ownership. Modeling also indicated that gardens are in areas with limited access to fresh produce. Contrary to the literature, we did not find a correlation between the presence of gardens and potential gentrification. Gardens, however, are consistently more prevalent in neighborhoods that have stabilized after experiencing high rates of vacancy, foreclosure, and housing demolition. These results have three important implications. First, redevelopment processes in legacy cities such as Detroit, through urban agriculture and other green infrastructure, are likely to lead to garden distributions different than those found in cities with more typical development trajectories. Second, the research calls into question generalized assumptions that expanding green space inevitably leads to gentrification, necessitating deeper investigation of these dynamics in diverse urban settings. And finally, racialized narratives around gardens and redevelopment risk undermining long-standing connections between Detroit’s gardens and environmental justice.
... In addition, by taking photos of what they would like to see in the neighborhood, our participants gained knowledge on how the community could change, which enhances their capacity to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. More important to sustained engagement and effective community change are the combined enhancements these knowledge areas and leadership abilities strengthen, such as commitment and empowerment; indeed, other assessments have associated these improvements with individuals mobilizing others and taking actions to improve the quality of life in their communities (Apaliyah et al., 2012;Chaskin, 2001;Mandarano, 2015;Meenar, 2015;Scheffert, 2007). ...
The built environment influences our use and experience of place, as well as emotions and well-being. It is important to understand how people associate emotions with urban places, or create “subjective” urban experiences in order to regenerate neighborhoods that are sensitive to our mental and emotional health and well-being. In this study, we analyzed photovoice-generated photos (n = 265), focus group and interview transcripts, and emotional maps as part of a brownfield revitalization planning effort in a post-industrial transitional neighborhood of Philadelphia, USA. We coded 13 themes to represent places, spaces, or topics and documented eight primary emotions associated with the photos. Joy was the most mentioned emotion, although the total number of negative emotions (e.g., sadness, anger, and disgust) far exceeded positive ones. Emotional maps revealed positive and negative hotspots and displayed how a single location or topic could trigger multiple contrasting or complementary emotions. A major contribution of this study is its methodological novelty of creating emotional maps with data collected from photovoice, interviews, and focus groups. Another contribution is an innovative community engagement approach involving underrepresented stakeholders in the process of planning for the revitalization of a transitional neighborhood facing pressure from development and gentrification.
... There are considerable differences between these two cities as well. Many Philadelphia neighborhoods, for example, are segregated in terms of race, ethnicity, and income inequality [34][35][36]. According to a regional equity analysis performed by the metropolitan planning organization that includes both cities, almost all parts of Camden are potentially disadvantaged but Philadelphia has a combination of wealthy and disadvantaged neighborhoods [37]. ...
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Prior research has documented environmental and economic benefits of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI); literature on GSI social benefits is also becoming more prevalent among scholars around the world. This paper aims to understand whether GSI projects are considered as assets to urban neighborhoods or as projects that might introduce a new set of social concerns. Based on field observations of 238 GSI projects and 50 intercept interviews, we investigate selected social aspects of GSI, such as project context, visual appearance, recreational appeal, meaning, and public perception, in two neighboring US cities—Philadelphia and Camden. Analysis of field data and observation notes revealed that GSI project setting impacted recreational appeal; their appearance was related to maintenance and signage; and their interaction with the public depended on location, land use, and visual/recreational appeal. Most GSI sites with the presence of trash, but the absence of signage were found in potentially disadvantaged areas. According to intercept interviews, many people were not aware of GSI presence in the neighborhood, were not familiar with GSI or its functionality, did not find a way to get access to GSI or interact with them, and were generally concerned about poor design, defective construction, or lack of maintenance. We argue that lack of information and community care/support for GSI can result in social disinvestments in these projects, which can facilitate improper use and maintenance issues, affecting their intended basic environmental functions. Consistent with prior research, we speak to the importance of participatory planning processes in improving community acceptance and interests around GSI planning and installation in urban landscapes.
... Assessments of community development, community leadership, and capacity building programmes (Emery and Flora 2006, Apaliyah et al. 2012, Mountjoy et al. 2014, Mandarano 2015, Meenar 2015, Monroe et al. 2016) demonstrate the utility of using community capitals, an assetbased model, to define and develop measures of community capacity. Assessments using community capitals stem from Ferguson and Dickens' definition of community development as a process that " … produces assets that improve the quality of life for neighbourhood", in which the assets are physical, intellectual and human, social, financial and political capitals (1999). ...
This study seeks to understand the factors that influence the variability in distribution of public and private sector investments in green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects across the diversity of neighbourhoods in the City of Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A. using indicators of community context and capacity. For this study, context is defined as characteristics of disadvantaged communities and capacity as factors that facilitate individual and collective action. Community context and capacity are deemed integral to the success of the Philadelphia GSI programme as the Philadelphia Water Department is relying upon collaborative approaches to facilitate public investments in neighbourhoods and voluntary implementation of GSI practices on publically and privately owned lands. Private sector investments in GSI mandated by stormwater regulations for new construction and major rehabilitation also are assessed in relation to these two sets of indicators. The geographic information systems and statistical analyses reveal an inequitable distribution of GSI projects, which largely is driven by market forces. The paper concludes with a community capacity-based framework to prioritise public sector investment in disadvantaged communities to achieve more equitable distribution of GSI projects and associated benefits.
Policy support for urban agriculture (UA) has increased internationally in the past decade, driven by factors such as urban decay, food insecurity, climate change and disasters, self-determination efforts and the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, there has been little analysis of the emergent practices across different cities in Aotearoa New Zealand. To address this gap, we examine key aspects of UA in Aotearoa and assess the application of local plans and regulation to determine how UA is defined and treated in the four most populous cities. The results reveal a lack of specific attention to and policy direction for UA. This vacuum is compounded by purpose-driven zoning typologies, restrictive resource use controls, scant provision for Māori food practices and a failure to keep pace with the changing forms of UA. The results identify the need for cities to review and clarify provision for UA, to create greater certainty and where appropriate, facilitation of food sovereignty and diverse urban foodscapes. Glossary of Māori terms: Ahikā: continuous occupation of territory; Ahuwhenua: agriculture; Huawhenua: horticulture; Kai: food; Kaitiakitanga: guardianship; Kaupapa Māori: Māori customary practice; Kūmara: sweet potato; Mahinga kai/hauanga kai: the customary and contemporary activity of and the place of harvesting, collection, hunting and gathering of food resources and other materials; Mākete: market; Mana whenua: the people of the land who have mana or customary authority - their historical, cultural and genealogical heritage are attached to the land and sea; Māra kai: food garden; Marae: open area in front of the meeting house, where formal greetings and discussions take place. Includes the grounds and buildings around the marae; Mātauranga Māori: the body of knowledge originating from Māori ancestors, including the Māori world view and perspectives, Māori creativity and cultural practices; Pākehā: New Zealander of European descent; Papakāinga: a settlement or village which has genealogical connections to that land; Māra rongoā: medicinal garden; Tangata whenua: indigenous people - people born of the land; Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Te reo Māori text of the Treaty of Waitangi; Tikanga: protocol - the customary system of values and practices that have developed over time and are deeply embedded in the social context; Whānau: extended family; Whare hoko: the use of land and/or buildings to provide readily accessible retail activities and commercial services required on a day to day basis Glossary sources: Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary, Auckland Unitary Plan 2016, Christchurch District Plan 2017.
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Today the relationship between food and cities is revitalizing urban areas, as food production practices transform locales one block and one neighborhood at a time. The key catalysts of this transformation include the commitment to address the root causes of inequalities within food systems and the desire to increase local control over food systems that have been increasingly industrialized and globalized. These goals, encapsulated by the terms “food justice” and “food sovereignty,” play major roles in guiding local food initiatives in cities today. This study explores how justice-oriented urban agriculture projects transform city contexts in ways that reduce regulatory barriers – barriers that, when left in place, could perpetuate systems of oppression. The study ends with the argument that, by removing regulatory barriers, urban agriculture projects are transforming cityscapes in ways that cultivate justice at the system level.
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Problem, research strategy, and findings: Municipalities across the United States are gradually recognizing urban agriculture as an integral part of planning, land use, and zoning ordinances. We review the literature on the regulation of urban agriculture at a moment when policy and regulatory vacuums exist and the acceptance and integration of urban agriculture is uneven. We review the current regulatory practices of 40 metropolitan and 40 micropolitan municipalities in the 4 U.S. Census regions. We find that municipalities are filling policy vacuums by adopting enabling ordinances (zoning ordinances, land use designations, resolutions), regulations on urban agriculture production (backyard animals, built structures, practitioner responsibility), and fiscal policy instruments (restrictions on sales of agricultural products, tax abatement, urban agriculture fees). Our findings support local planning practitioners in filling regulatory gaps, practitioners of urban agriculture in seeking how it’s done elsewhere, and researchers in discerning new applied and basic research projects. We identify 3 principal knowledge gaps: Planners need a complete typology of regulatory possibilities; a better understanding of how local, state, and federal legislations constrain or enable urban agriculture; and empirical evidence of the economic, social, and environmental impacts of urban agriculture. Takeaway for practice: Planners should assess existing urban agricultural practices and consider which regulatory frameworks best support multiple local goals, incorporating a concern with urban agriculture into ongoing activities, deploying existing or innovative land use tools, facilitating institutional cooperation, and promoting inclusive decision making and community engagement.
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Planning organizations have recently initiated planning academies to increase citizens’ capacity to effectively engage in city and local planning activities. Yet, the success of these programs is largely unknown. This article seeks to address this gap in knowledge by proposing an assessment framework to identify increased civic engagement capacity using three tiers of outcomes. The results of a multicase study suggest that this model of public outreach and education programming is successful at realizing improvements in individual human and social capitals that translate into effective citizen engagement measured as actions taken by participants to improve community conditions.
In recent years urban agriculture has gained the attention of policy-makers, social organizers, and academics alike. This new wave of work and attention focuses on projects that ameliorate issues ranging from food insecurity to urban blight, and environmental degradation to the subversion of industrial food production. These projects consist of a variation of community gardens, educational programs, demonstration farms, and entrepreneurial production farms (I will identify all of these under the umbrella of urban agriculture (UA)). However, by simply studying the social impact of UA, researchers fail to consider who the active agent is in social change; this results in little acknowledgement of a movement that is predominately white, hegemonic, and exclusive. As a movement, UA is largely championed by a middle-class white populace as part of the alternative food movement, rather than being understood as having historical roots in predominately black and/or Latino neighborhoods. As a result, urban agriculture generally creates white spaces in otherwise black or Latino places. In this paper I will argue for a new research direction that considers UA from a critical race theory framework and that will allow researchers to examine how urban agriculture might create white "spaces" and white "ethics" in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods. Understanding UA from a critical race theory framework will be useful in helping the UA movement talk about food sovereignty rather than food insecurity in urban communities.
Beginning with the foundations of community development, An Introduction to Community Development offers a comprehensive and practical approach to planning for communities. Road-tested in the authors' own teaching, and through the training they provide for practicing planners, it enables students to begin making connections between academic study and practical know-how from both private and public sector contexts. An Introduction to Community Development shows how planners can utilize local economic interests and integrate finance and marketing considerations into their strategy. Most importantly, the book is strongly focused on outcomes, encouraging students to ask: what is best practice when it comes to planning for communities, and how do we accurately measure the results of planning practice? This newly revised and updated edition includes: increased coverage of sustainability issues. discussion of localism and its relation to community development. quality of life, community well-being and public health considerations. and content on local food systems. Each chapter provides a range of reading materials for the student, supplemented with text boxes, a chapter outline, keywords, and reference lists, and new skills based exercises at the end of each chapter to help students turn their learning into action, making this the most user-friendly text for community development now available.