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In the middle of a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complex, where there was once an empty lot, there’s now a farm teeming with purple eggplants, rainbow chard, and okra. At six sites in four boroughs, the Farms at NYCHA program combines youth workforce development, healthy food access, community engagement, and sustainable open space activation. FPHNYC is proud to have played a critical role in this multi-faceted project.

Collaboration across the city

Farms at NYCHA is a Building Healthy Communities initiative, aligned with FPHNYC’s mission to support the health and well-being of all New Yorkers. Farm locations were chosen based on historic lack of investment in open spaces, and limited access to healthy, affordable food. Most of the selected neighborhoods also have disproportionately high burdens of chronic disease and poor health, including high rates of obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

In support of program partners Green City Force (GCF) and NYCHA, FPHNYC collaborated with the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships to bring in private investment and served as fiscal manager, advisor, and partner convener. This initiative, launched in 2013 and expanded with funding from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, now has support from a diverse variety of funders including the Merck Family Fund, The New York Community Trust, Scherman Foundation, The Staten Island Foundation, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Unilever, Target, and the City Council.

In 2017, over 230 residents participated in over 70 community events, 19,800 lbs. of free organic produce were distributed, and over 340 students were engaged in farm-based learning programs.

Growing successfully

FPHNYC is proud to have helped grow this project from a one-site pilot to an award-winning program with sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

“We value the leadership and support that the Fund for Public Health in NYC contributed to the Farms at NYCHA partnership since its launch in 2016. Thanks to their stewardship, the farms have grown into sustainable community spaces, sources for fresh local produce, volunteer sites, and training grounds for NYCHA resident AmeriCorps Members that will be maintained for seasons to come.”

Lisbeth Shepherd, Founder and Executive Director of Green City Force.

After 3.5 years, as the program transitions from start-up to full-scale implementation and sustainability, FPHNYC will pass the fundraising and fiscal management responsibilities to Green City Force and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. Farms at NYCHA will continue to advance with GCF as the backbone citywide partner, NYCHA as the lead agency partner and with critical leadership and support from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

The Farms at NYCHA program is an example of the our model in action. We mobilized funding, accelerated implementation, and nurture partnerships to improve the health of individuals, families, and communities across NYC.