Developing Pathways to Food Justice: Washington Heights/Inwood Food Council

by Deirdre Appel
Washington Heights/Inwood Food Council

Name: Washington Heights/Inwood Food Council (WHIN Food Council)

What They Do: The WHIN Food Council works to encourage sustainable food systems and healthy food consumption in Washington Heights and Inwood. They provide a place where residents can identify their food justice issues and determine their own solutions. By encouraging community participation in events while simultaneously developing knowledgeable and culturally-aware leaders, the organization serves as a catalyst for food justice and fosters dynamic community involvement.

WHIN uses the term “food justice” to include community awareness, advocacy, educational initiatives, and improving access to healthy, fresh, and affordable food while being mindful of the environment and labor.

How They Do It: Every month, the WHIN Food Council hosts at least one free community meeting or event that is open to the community. Events are built around their four buckets of work: gardening, community building, outreach, and education. 

They began hosting their Family Gardening Days in 2017. Currently they have three garden plots in the Riley-Levin Children’s Garden in east Inwood that are operated by the New York Restoration Project, a non-profit organization that has planted trees, renovated gardens, restored parks, and transformed open space for communities throughout New York City’s five boroughs. The garden season runs from March to November with open hours every Wednesday from 6:00-7:30PM and aims to educate attendees about food justice and food access through gardening work. 

In addition to open garden hours, the Council hosts nutrition, fermentation and food preservation workshops in community spaces. They also organize documentary nights and presentations by guest speakers on food justice-related topics at spaces throughout the neighborhood.

As part of their outreach and community building efforts, the organization hosts seasonal potlucks throughout the year highlighting healthy food traditions that already exist within cultures as well as tables at local events and fairs to raise awareness of their mission.

All meetings and events are offered in both English and Spanish, in order to welcome community members who are Spanish-dominant and fully include them in an equitable way in the group’s activities and decision making.

Long-term goals include 1) increasing WHIN Food Council’s community members’ knowledge of food justice, 2) increasing WHIN Food Council’s community members’ ability to organize and advocate for public gardening space, and 3) increasing amount of affordable, fresh, and healthy food for WHIN Food Council community members.

Mission: “Developing pathways to food justice in Washington Heights and Inwood.

Latest project/campaign: For the third year in a row, the WHIN Food Council received a neighborhood grant from the Citizens Committee for New York City that allows them to continue to spark conversations about cultural food identity and health issues by hosting a community potlucks, family garden days, and food preservation workshops. The planned events create opportunities for families to learn how to build self-sufficiency in the production of their own food.

Major Funding: Grants

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Revenue: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: The WHIN Food Council takes a community-organizing approach to fostering local empowerment and creating change from the bottom-up. It was created by the Founders Committee, a group of dedicated individuals in the community who helped to implement many of the practices, activities, and partnerships that defined its role in Upper Manhattan. The organization follows a consensus-based approach and aims to be inclusive and engages in participatory decision-making. This set-up ensures that the group belongs to the community, and it is the members who decide on the priorities for healthy food access in Washington Heights and Inwood. The WHIN Food Council is currently run by a Steering Committee of volunteers.

FACT SHEET:

Location: Washington Heights and Inwood, New York City
Core Programs: Gardening, community building, outreach, and education
Number of staff: Currently 6 members on the Steering Committee, 6 members on the Garden Committee
Number of volunteers: N/A
Areas served:  The “community” is currently defined by Manhattan Community Board 12, reaching from the northern tip of Manhattan down to 155th Street and stretching from the Hudson River on the west to the Harlem River on the east.
Year Started: 2016
Founder: Catarina Rivera
Contact Information: [email protected], @whinfoodcouncil on Instagram, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whinfoodcouncil 
Website: http://www.whinfoodcouncil.org

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