Food & Nutrition


It’s the right time to bring an urban ecovillage to Akron, Ohio.

Look for these exciting sustainable elements to be included:  (1) Greenbuilding and rehabs, (2) urban farming, (3) Co-op retail businesses, (4) shared transit, and (5) ecoliving events, training and education.

Here are the TOP TEN reasons why the launch of an urban ecovillage in 2013 is sure to rock:

  1. The drive toward sustainable urban development: a greater focus on neighborhood efforts to integrate environmental, economic, and social responses to our current crises.   Urban Current:  A Project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States Urban & Regional Policy Program.
  2. Urban agricultural efforts have made common cause with groups concerned with healthy non-processed food.  The Nation
  3. The sustainability movement will stay on track to become the norm, rather than the exception, with greater efforts in the works to develop greener urban districts and more sustainable, low-tech urban design.  Greenbuilding Services
  4. Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, renting and swapping—including shared landscapes, transportation and meals.–TIME names Collaborative Consumption as one of the “10 Ideas That Will Change The World.” 
  5. With the uptick of sustainable building mandates and consumer demand for  sustainability, funding and incentives for sustainable structures are becoming more readily available.  Greenbuilding Services
  6. We are becoming a nation of overachievers.  Just saving energy is now not enough. The trend is to go all the way and make homes net-zero.  Most net-zero homes achieve this designation by combining a variety of passive and active design strategies.  Buildapedia
  7. Hundreds of “social enterprises” that use profits for environmental, social or community-serving goals are expanding rapidly. New Economics Institute
  8. At the cutting edge of experimentation are the growing number of egalitarian, and often green, worker-owned cooperatives.  New Economics Institute
  9. The number of bike commuters in the USA rose by 64 percent from 1990 to 2009. University Transportation Research Center   
  10. Companies are lining up to register as B Corporations (the “B” stands for “benefit”) allowing companies to subordinate profits to social and environmental goals.  The Nation
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food bank logoThe October meeting of the Greater Summit County Food Policy Coalition (SFPC), Akron’s new food policy council sprouted this year, led by Chris Norman, Director from Crown Point Ecology Center, brought its members to the Akron Canton Regional Food Bank (FB), a state-of-the-art 85,000 square foot warehouse facility on the western edge of downtown Akron.  

As reported by the Greater Akron Partnership for Sustainability: “Food policy councils (FPCs) are made up of a broad based group of dedicated individuals from both the public and the governmental sectors, each of which bring different talents and knowledge to the table. In the United States there are many cities beginning food policy councils, as the topics of healthy food access, school lunches, urban agriculture and farmland preservation continue to pop up in news across the nation.”

 Mark Mitchell, FB manager of marketing and communications, dished out some disheartening stats about the need for FB in the Akron-Canton area in light of the current economic snapshot for NE Ohio:

  • They distributed over 16 million lbs. of food in 2008
  • 25% increase over 2007
  • Projected 17.5 million lbs. of food for 2009
  • 900 volunteers putting in 18,000 hours
  • 23% of children under 5 are food insecure in Ohio, 3rd highest in nation

FoodBanksml[1] SFPC is forging ahead with active committees including:  Micro Enterprises, Health Food Access, Education/Marketing, Community Gardens and Networking. It’s another bright spot for Akron’s growing sustainability efforts.

May 13, 2009

Larry Parker and Jerry EganMustard Seed Market and Cafe in Fairlawn stepped up as the new meeting site for the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S) networking events, now held regularly in Akron, alternating monthly with Cleveland. Apparently, Akron membership has grown too green for E4S to keep their events exclusively on the Big Lake.

The topic of the May meeting was all about the local food economy featuring Akron growing champs including Larry Parker of the Akron Cooperative and the new Akron Grows community garden project; Beth Knorr of the Countryside Conservancy; and Chris Norman, Akron Summit County Food Policy Coalition and director of Crown Pointe Farms.

Father and son, Phillip and Abe Nabors, were on hand to offer tours of their Mustard Seed Market, claimed to be NEO’s largest locally-owned natural and organic foods market. Phillip also spoke about his love for gardening and push to feature locally-grown food at his 28-year-old retail grocery.

NEO rarely sits in any Top 5 positive city rankings, but how about a stellar #2 for locally-grown foods second only to my hometown of Minneapolis? SustainLane, a popular national sustainability movement website came up with these rankings using data from the US Department of Agriculture for farmers’ markets and community gardens.

Many palatable ideas for sustainability in the Akron area are growing out of the local food movement.

Selecting seed packets for the community garden

Selecting seed packets for the community garden

The City of Akron together with the Akron Cooperative and Ohio State University Extension is breaking ground to offer community garden plots for its residents.

Eight city-owned lots scattered about town are being tilled, furrowed and sown to move closer to a vision of one day sustaining a third of the dietary needs of its citizens.

The Summer of ’09 is the revival of a program now taking on the challenge of getting enough participants at each site to ante up $20-30. Larry Parker, director of Akron Cooperative says, “That initial investment will be repaid to urban gardeners many times over. Keep in mind that for $20 or $30 you can produce a couple hundred dollars worth of fresh veggies.”

So far, plenty of gardening go-getters have formally registered to get their fingernails dirty working those spades and hoes to reap a bounty of homegrown veggies and/or colorful sprays of flowers.

At the 11th hour, I stepped up as a participant, running my app. over to the city planning office. Kurt Mulhauser, urban planner and the city’s head hoe-downer, tipped me off that an orientation was taking place that very evening at the Highland Square Library.

Listening to the enthusiastic and encouraging words from Kurt, Larry and Denise Ellsworth, OSU Extension master gardener, and grabbing a handful of seed packets and a $15 live plants/seed packets voucher from the City of Akron to Donzell’s, Graf Growers or Pettiti garden centers, and later, starter plants donated from Crown Pointe Ecology Center in Bath (I already got my initial investment back!), I can’t wait to dig in!

Can a greenhorned gardener like me pull up at least one radish by harvest time? What kind of “garden-variety” angels will be stepping forward inside and outside of the community garden neighborhoods to aid the cause?

Get all the latest digs right here on the community gardens adventure as the project continues to grow!