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August 30, 2019

Connecting the dots: How Does Communication Improve The Equity of the Urban Food Cycle? | Jisu Yang | BFA Architecture 2021

by jyang11

As there isn’t any collective database for community gardens in Providence, my idea of mapping and revealing the profile of gardens became an essential project for my fellowship period which was originally mentioned in the first blog. So how has that been going? 

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As I visit community gardens and meet people, the point in the map increases. A single dot is not interesting but if there are many of them, it has a stronger capacity to bring more attraction. The collective entity forms a larger movement of urban agriculture in Providence. 

The Parks Department already has an on-going Story Map for public parks on their website. The information I collected will be simply added to the original platform. There was a conversation on how do we include community gardens that are affiliated with non-profit organizations. I encouraged them to be as inclusive as possible since the garden movement has a much stronger impact when we see all the organizations associated in one space. Eventually, the agreement was to have two separate tabs: one is “Providence Parks Community Garden” and the other is “Community Garden Affiliated with NGOs”. The latter will have a link and description to all the organizations that support urban agriculture and how they operate. Some of them have an integral relationship with other organizations and the growth of the city, forming a network of food cycles in Providence. 

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The link to StoryMap will be posted as soon as it gets published in the City website.

 

James Cornell in the “The Agency of Mapping” describes the following:

“Mapping is a fantastic cultural project, creating and building the world as much as measuring and describing it. Long affiliated with the planning and design of cities, landscapes, and buildings, mapping is particularly instrumental in constructing and constructing of lived space. In this active sense, the function of mapping is less to mirror reality than to engender the re-shaping of the worlds in which people live.”

Endorsing Cornell’s point, I believe that the impact of the map is not just reflecting how many gardens exist but imagining how much more these gardens can grow to construct a sustainable food cycle in the city. In other words, it provides opportunities for organizations and the community to form a new relationship. 

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A community garden in Amos House that opened last year!

Amos House is a social organization that supports people who are often neglected by society. They work with other organizations such as Southside Community Land Trust, Sankofa, and the City of Providence to organize programs and job opportunities. After meeting with Kali who is a program coordinator at Amos House, I had a great chance to meet with Michael who is the chief of the Soup Kitchen at Amos House. He allowed me to realize that food is the ultimate element that completes the cycle of farming. 

Amos House Soup Kitchen runs a food recovery program where the organization affords approximately 13,000 people a month for both breakfast and lunch. Since they have a limited budget, the Food Recovery Program essentially allows them to collect wasted food from shops, markets, and farmlands and recover the food by instantly providing to people in need. Although their budget of $10,000 is not enough for providing an extensive amount of meals, the Recovery Program makes this impossible possible. They have a system of visiting all the shops and farms they are affiliated with through foodbank in Cranston. The shops include Wholefood, Hope’s Harvest by Farm Fresh RI, bakery shops in downtown Providence and Gotham Green… etc. 

When I showed Michael my project on StoryMap, he was very excited and told me that this is a great platform for him to utilize. Putting into his words, “Your work is essentially connecting dots and this is really important because someone like me can call a garden and ask for any crops that get wasted!! This kind of platform does not exist and as a result, a lot of people do not understand what are existing supports they can get. I know there are lots of community farming that I might have overlooked and it would be great to know where they are so I can get more resources!”

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It is very important to have a common connection. Urban agriculture in Providence entails lots of challenges. There is always an issue with soil since the district has industrial remnant and it does not always have enough labor support to sustain the garden in the city. By pin-pointing where things are, the map essentially opens up new opportunities for people to work together and collaborate to construct a sustainable food network by sharing resources.

 

 

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