Awesome Project: WHIN Food Council

New York City resident Danielle Bagley absolutely loves living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights and Inwood (WHIN) in Uptown Manhattan. “I like to describe it as ‘lively,’” she says, and that’s why she feels connected to it. “You always have folks out on the sidewalk, chatting or listening to music; in the summertime, people are out playing games. It’s quite beautiful. There are lots of great community art projects. There’s an Audubon bird mural project. You can walk around and see murals [of different birds] that people have created.”

Danielle is the Co-Fundraising Coordinator for the WHIN Food Council, a volunteer-run group whose members live, work, and play in the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods. “A really important part of the Council is that the people who are part of it live here, which means they know the needs of the community. And not just the needs,” Danielle says, “but the community itself.” 

As the members of the council know, one major problem the neighborhood faces is its lack of accessibility to fresh and healthy food; in fact, the neighborhood ranks among the least healthy food environments in the city. According to data from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s 2018 Community Health Profile, there are about 13 bodegas in the neighborhood for every supermarket. “Bodegas are generally less likely to have as many healthy options compared to supermarkets,” the report states. “It’s easier to make healthy choices when healthy, affordable food is readily available.” Other data from the report show that residents of the WHIN community bear disproportionate negative health outcomes compared to other neighborhoods in NYC. 

In 2016, local resident Catarina Rivera wanted to do something about the food inequities that existed in her community. With support from City Harvest, she and her neighbors started hosting informal meetings to discuss food issues and brainstorm how they might help WHIN residents live healthier lives. Those discussion sessions grew and grew, and eventually they developed a mission, vision, and operating procedures for their new organization, the WHIN Food Council.

Helping folks identify their food justice issues and empowering them with tools to determine their own solutions has been at the heart of the Council since its inception. “Our main goal is to work in sustainable food systems and food justice in general,” Danielle says. “So we do a lot of work around gardening, healthy eating, and trying to advocate for green spaces in New York. We want people to have spaces where they can go and engage safely out in nature and learn some tips and tricks on how to grow their own herbs or come to the garden and see what we’ve got planted.”

Gardening, community outreach, community building, and education: these are the four pillars of the Council’s work. They’re on a mission to inspire people to eat healthier today, but they’re also investing in teaching folks about growing food to bring awareness to food justice and accessibility. They manage two garden plots in the neighborhood and host family garden days, where people can stop by and harvest some produce. They continue to host at least one free community event or public meeting each month. They spread education through their social media channels and feature tips and tricks on their Instagram about how to prevent food spoilage, how to reuse food scraps, and more!

In order to keep the program up and running, the Council needs funding to maintain the garden and to continue providing outreach and education. And as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, their work has taken on a new urgency as they help address immediate needs in their community. “We have been sharing resources on our social media channels to address current needs and challenges, such as local opportunities to secure food, local food businesses to support, and calls for volunteering,” their leaders say.

When Danielle and her Co-Fundraising Coordinator, Caroline, came on board with the Council in August 2020, the organization was gearing up to use ioby for their first-ever crowdfunding campaign. “We got to push [the campaign] forward,” she says. “It was so exciting.”

“We had a soft launch first,” Danielle remembers. “We reached out to family and friends and our supporters [and said], ‘Hey, we’re doing a crowdfunding campaign, check it out! If you feel inclined, please donate or send it to people who might be interested in donating.” Once they hit a certain number, then they officially launched their campaign and spread the word to their community through their social media channels, newsletter, and email list. 

Danielle acknowledges that along the way they faced some challenges, particularly for the moment. “It was hard with COVID, because you don’t know people’s financial situation. But even the littlest bit helps. So we had [a suggested donation amount] of $4 in honor of our four year anniversary,” she says. Another way they generated interest in their campaign was by partnering with local businesses, artists, and growers to host a raffle. The money from the raffle, plus individual donations, helped them raise most of their funds. But with about 24 hours remaining in their campaign, they found themselves just shy of their fundraising goal. 

WHIN Food Council hosts regular education programs to teach all neighbors about growing food.

“Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan,” she says. She knows it’s important to be adaptable and ask for advice or help when you need it. “ioby has a lot of resources on how to get started, how to launch, how to promote, and things like that. So the resources are there. [You just have to use] what you can and pivot if you need to.”

For Danielle, that meant emailing their donors for one last push in the final hours of their campaign. “[We told them], Thank you so much. We really appreciate it. We’re almost there. If you could share this with people that may be interested, or if you’ve been interested and haven’t donated yet, this is the last 12 hours. And that’s honestly how we [did it]” Danielle says, “because within the hour of that email, [we reached our goal]. And then we just kept getting a little bit more, and then when [the campaign] finally closed, we had surpassed our goal. We thought that was so fantastic.” Their hard work paid off: they raised over $5,900, which meant they had surpassed their initial target!

And the momentum is still going strong: Danielle is looking forward to a bright future for the WHIN Food Council. She and Caroline are brainstorming ways to make fundraising more sustainable so they can continue to grow. In addition to crowdfunding, they’re exploring grants and other ways to generate funds for their garden. “We have so many ideas for what we want to do,” she says. “It’s exciting because it shows how many cool things we have going in our thoughts and the potential [we have]. I’m so excited to see what 2021 has in store for us.” 

For the folks at the WHIN Food Council, it’s all about eating healthy today and investing in a more sustainable food future for us all–from the ground up.

Awesome Project: Easy Activism, Fundraising for Black Mental Health

New York City resident Dominique recalls the early days after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, when she and her friends Hannah and Stephanie were looking for ways to help the Black community. Like much of the nation, they were grappling with feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration that arose in response to the murder of Floyd, as well as the countless others who came before him. 

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Awesome Project: Service Workers’ Coalition: Grocery Stipends

From serving up hot meals to writing cookbooks and everything in between, Brooklyn resident AD knows the ins and outs of their local restaurant community. As a former barista, bartender, and server, and a current activist and hospitality consultant, their roots run deep in the industry. “I’m pretty entrenched in the restaurant community here in Brooklyn,” they say. 

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Awesome Project: Bloomfield Saturday Market

On Saturday mornings, Abi Gildea makes her way to 50 50 Liberty Avenue in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood. Any other day of the week, her route would lead her to an empty parking lot. But on Saturdays, the area transforms into a bustling market filled with dozens and dozens of local vendors. From vegetables to prepared foods to home goods and everything in between, Bloomfield Saturday Market is a place for people to enjoy a taste of Pittsburgh. And Abi is the woman behind the market’s magic. 

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Awesome Project: La Casa Guadalupana

Sister Marie Benzing smiles as she recalls the most recent graduation ceremony from La Casa Guadalupana, a family literacy program based in Detroit. “They were so proud, you know. They were each in their car, in the parking lot with their families, and Lourdes called their names. They got out of their car and walked up. She put their certificate on the corner of the table and then backed away. They took their certificate and all the horns were honking. It was so cool.” In the middle of a year that brought so many challenges to their community, the graduation was an occasion truly worth celebrating.

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NEW FEATURE! How to download your donor list on ioby

At ioby, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our user experience and offer features that help meet your needs. It’s why we always ask for feedback from project leaders like you, and why we invite your thoughts at every step of the crowdfunding process. 

One of the most requested features from project leaders has been for an easy and simple way to download your list of donors. We’re happy to share that this feature is now live!

Here’s how to download your donor lists on your ioby campaign page: 

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Organizing your neighborhood for justice: Past, Present, and Future

Fighting for racial justice is an ongoing, multifaceted process. The challenges we face are interconnected and will take actions big and small from all of us to overcome. To commit to the movement for Black lives, then, is to be committed to a continuous and systemic approach to our fight for racial justice. It’s a tall order, but we know some folks who are up to the task!

We put together a three-part blog series to offer just a few examples of what the fight for Black lives might look like in your community; we invite you to support these projects and to draw inspiration from them for your own project. It features powerful examples of Black-led projects on ioby that fight for a world where Black Lives Matter in their own unique ways. Explore them below, then, check out our resources to help bring your own idea to life.

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Organizing the Neighborhood for Justice: Building the future

Right now, we are living in a pivotal moment in our nation’s racial trajectory, and the whole country is paying attention to the Black Lives Matter movement’s call to action. From small backyard gatherings to busy city streets, people everywhere are standing in solidarity with Black lives. They’re listening, they’re learning, and they’re fighting positive change that will move us all toward a more racially just society.

We know that we have a long way to go until we get to justice, but we know that achieving racial justice is possible. It will take neighbor leaders like you uniting to celebrate and honor Black history, stand against racism and fight for justice in the present, and look toward the future with hope. 

So today, we’re sharing the stories of several ioby projects that are exploring what a just future might look like, and investing in their communities as they chart a path to that future. We hope you’ll be as inspired by these changemakers as we are! This is the final piece of a three-part series on fighting for Black lives; be sure to check out our previous posts about honoring Black lives of the past and sustaining the fight in the present.

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Five ideas to support kids as they go back to school during COVID-19

Learning pods, virtual classrooms, and school PPE, oh my! As the school bell rings and students get ready to head back to class, our school supply lists might look a little different this year. But whether our kids will be walking into campus or logging onto Zoom on day one, one thing remains consistent: we want them to have a great start to the school year!

Right now, we’re seeing lots of ioby leaders working hard to provide the tools and technology that families need to ensure the learning doesn’t stop during COVID-19. They’re being flexible, creative, and responsive to the needs of their communities. Many are deepening the work they’re already doing as they pivot their projects, and we know their work is making a difference!

We’ve rounded up a few examples of how some folks are rising to the challenge of helping students and families prepare for the new school year. Many of these projects are still fundraising, and we invite you to learn more about how they’re empowering students and their families–and investing in a better future for us all.

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