CPDC and Communities Together. Growing and Thriving (2011 – Present)
Tribute# 16 – Our New Community Building Model: Promoting Healthy and Sustainable Communities
In recent years, community workers, public health officials, and urban planners have become increasingly concerned about the issue of declining levels of physical and psychological health of individuals living in major cities. There are a number of factors that contribute to this decline including polluted and unsafe environments, long commute times, poverty, and poor nutrition. CPDC addresses this and many other challenges across its properties by providing programs and resources that promote healthy and sustainable communities.
Poor nutrition is a significant factor in declining health, particularly among low-income individuals and families that cannot afford or gain access to fresh produce. For many District of Columbia residents, healthy foods are simply out of reach. Such is the case in areas like Ward 8 in Southeast, where only three out of the District’s 43 full-service grocery stores are located. Known as a “food desert,” an area with little or no access to affordable fresh produce needed to maintain healthy living, Ward 8 has among the District’s highest poverty and obesity rates. By partnering with The Green Scheme at one of its communities in Ward 8, CPDC is working to tackle poverty and poor nutrition, as well as support a healthy environment.
Wheeler Terrace – the first affordable housing community in the District to meet Enterprise Green Communities standards and obtain LEED Gold certification – became home to CPDC’s fourth community-based garden project. Shortly after creating the garden, CPDC partnered with The Green Scheme in 2012 to help encourage increased community support for the garden. The Green Scheme is a non-profit organization that promotes environmental sustainability, health awareness, and social justice. The Green Scheme works alongside residents at Wheeler Terrace to maintain the garden and holds bi-weekly workshops to teach about the importance of gardening and healthy eating.
“Kids really enjoy it,” said Xavier Brown, Director of Urban Agriculture at The Green Scheme. “Since being involved with our program, they can probably name every plant in the garden. It’s also amazing to see an ice cream truck ride down the street and, instead of grabbing a popsicle, a kid will grab a strawberry [from the garden].”
An additional benefit that has resulted from bringing residents together to grow their own food is increased community engagement and resident leadership.
“There is value in highlighting the assets of a community,” said Joelle Robinson, co-founder of The Green Scheme. “And at Wheeler Terrace, community engagement is definitely a major asset.”
Daynna Dixon, CPDC’s Regional Resident Service Manager directly responsible for the Wheeler Terrace community, hopes that these types of programs will ultimately encourage residents to take even greater action in their community.
“I want the garden to ultimately help transform residents’ thinking,” expressed Dixon. “If they can see and appreciate the benefits that their hard work has yielded in this regard, they will be more likely to take action on other issues that affect positive change in the community.”
Through partnerships with residents and service providers like The Green Scheme, CPDC is working to promote healthy and sustainable communities.