The commute from my home in suburban Philadelphia to my office at the Impact Hub in Olde Kensington presents a kaleidoscope of the human experience in Philadelphia. Along the way I see children walking to school, professionals heading downtown to their offices, debt-ridden college students heading to class, and homeless people worried about where they will find their next meal. After leaving the manicured suburbs and getting of the train walk by dilapidated factories and abandoned homes, shuttered schools, vacant lots, and corner stores specializing in unhealthy snacks.
Philadelphia's challenges, and the challenges faced in our cities around the country, are myriad and do not exist within a vacuum. Even isolating as seemingly simple as "feeding hungry people" presents multiple approaches to solving the same problem; there are economic and educational factors at play, limited access to fresh and healthy food, nutritional inequity and underutilized green space. People are working on all of these issues, hunger-related or otherwise, all over the city, but they are working in pockets and often by themselves. There aren't places where these people and organizations that share a vision for a better city can work alongside each other, sharing resources and expertise, to turn that common vision into collective action.
Food has always been common denominator of humanity; rich or poor, healthy or sick, empowered or disenfranchised, everybody eats. Relationships start over dinner; families share meals with each other; communities celebrate holidays with feasts. Why aren't there places where social enterprises, nonprofits, and other change makers can build a community of progress in impact in the same way that people have been creating social constructs throughout time?
The Impact Hub Community Kitchen sets the table for innovators, entrepreneurs, and activists with a buffet of opportunities to improve the way Philadelphia eats and connects around food. Currently in development and slated to launch mid-July 2014, the is the first such kitchen in Philadelphia that will simultaneously engage twenty leading food justice organizations in Philadelphia and provide an incubator for early stage food entrepreneurs to test and refine their product for market.
Judy Wicks, godmother of Philadelphia's sustainable business community and nationally renowned food justice thought leader, put it this way:
"The Impact Hub Community Kitchen will strengthen our regional food system by providing the opportunity for food enterprises to process fresh local produce into products that can be consumed year round. This will not only increase business for local farmers, but it will replace imported food products with those made by local businesses, enriching our local economy rather than distant corporations."
By bringing together organizations and businesses that use food as their vehicle to affect positive social change in Philadelphia, the Impact Hub Kitchen will create a model of collaboration that aggregates the best ideas and programs into a shared space. Beyond simply addressing food justice issues, this Kitchen will become an integral part of the Impact Hub Philadelphia community, serving as a place where the change makers at the Impact Hub can share a table, the same way that a family would.
Philadelphia is hungry for change, evidenced not only by a walk through some of our most challenged neighborhoods but also by the thousands of people whose lives have been dedicated to building a better city. What better place than a kitchen to come together to make it full again?
For more information on the Impact Hub Community Kitchen, please visit philadelphia.impacthub.net/kitchen or write Tom at email@example.com.