Sowing Place Cross-sector Collaboration to Address Food, Economic Development, Health, and Art

The Kresge Foundation awarded the City of Providence and its partners $75,000 through Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization (FreshLo) to design neighborhood-scale projects demonstrating creative, cross-sector visions of food-oriented development.

“I am excited to once again work with the Kresge Foundation. This project will harness the creative culture we have here in Providence to directly impact our neighborhoods in a positive and healthy way,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “Sowing Place will allow for a cross-sector, multi-pronged approach to increase quality of life, access to fresh food and over health and wellness of our residents.”

The Kresge Foundation is the first national funder to intentionally and equitably integrate food, art and community to drive neighborhood revitalization at this scale. In Providence, the City’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and the Healthy Communities Office are using the funding awarded to create Sowing Place, a collaborative planning process designed to align work plans and deepen partnerships among the City and neighborhood-based community partners in creative placemaking, health equity, land use, urban agriculture, social justice and social services in order transform two of Providence’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods into healthy, affordable and vibrant communities.

Sowing Place artist facilitators Laura Brown-Lavoie and Vatic Kuumba lead the collaborative in creative cross-sector planning

Sowing Place is designed to connect existing public and private food-oriented and creative placemaking initiatives underway in the West End and Upper South Providence neighborhoods. The City will engage artist facilitators to design and implement the collaborative planning process. Key community-based partners of Sowing Place include: West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation’s Sankofa Initiative; Southside Cultural Center; Environmental Justice League of RI; the African Alliance of Rhode Island; RI Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); residents and neighborhood youth arts organizations.

“Food and cultural expression are inextricably tied together, and have been throughout history,” said Stacey Barbas, senior program officer with Kresge’s Health Program. “FreshLo seeks to use that relationship to help local organizations build creative and invigorating pathways to better health and opportunity in urban low-income neighborhoods.”

More than 500 organizations applied for FreshLo funding – the most applicants for a funding opportunity in The Kresge Foundation’s 92-year history. The overwhelming response resulted in the Foundation funding six additional grants to the 20 that were initially planned, for a total of 26 awardees.

FreshLo embodies The Kresge Foundation’s philosophy that catalytic change to improve opportunity for low-income persons in America’s cities requires a multi-layered approach – not simply one program or sector working alone. By avoiding prescriptive solutions, Kresge has intentionally sought to encourage an expansive, unique and creative suite of proposals through the FreshLo initiative.

“We’ve given our grantees license and encouragement to think and act in new, groundbreaking and even disruptive ways that lift up and celebrate the unique nature of their communities,” said Helen Davis Johnson, program officer with Kresge’s Arts & Culture Program. The grants will support project management, partnership development, community engagement, strategic communications, policy development and other activities directly related to successful outcomes.

Rachel Newman-Greene of the City of Providence’s Healthy Communities Office, Cristina Cabrera of the Environmental Justice League, Stephanie Fortunato, of the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, and the Julius Kolowale of the African Alliance tour an African Alliance green house with Kresge Foundation program officer Stacy Barbas

About the Kresge Foundation: The Kresge Foundation is a $3.6 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development in Detroit. In 2015, the Board of Trustees approved 370 grants totaling $125.2 million, and nine social investment commitments totaling $20.3 million.

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