On Monday we met with Lorenzo Listana and Ryan Thayer, our community partners from the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC). Lorenzo and Ryan outlined good times to visit the Tenderloin and attend coalition and working group meetings within the community (second Mondays of the month during the early afternoon for steering committee meetings and every Thursday afternoon for the food justice working group meeting). Amabel and Jenai are bottom-lining contact with our community partners and have set up another meeting next Friday to connect with them and any other community members directly, as well as begin becoming accustomed to the neighborhood where we’ll be working throughout this quarter. The week after next we plan to attend the food justice and/or community steering committee meeting on Thursday and will update our schedule moving forward.
Our group (Sonja, Jenai, Casey and Amabel) also met independently on Wednesday evening to get to know each other in our team context and begin on our project’s scope of work.
II. What We Observed and Learned
The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) is an organization that manages affordable housing and provides other services, such as providing healthy foods, in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. The TNDC works primarily on anti-poverty and social justice campaigns that focus on leadership development and capacity building within the Tenderloin neighborhood community.
With around 39,321 residents, the Tenderloin is the most densely populated neighborhood in San Francisco. Among this population, over ¼ live on an income of less than $10,000 per year and ⅓ with a disability. Given these statistics, it was surprising to become aware of the conditions and resource restraints that many residents live with. One of the most surprising things we learned was that the Tenderloin does not have a grocery store, meaning that residents’ food shopping either takes place in corner stores or in grocery stores in other neighborhoods. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of Tenderloin inhabitants live in Single-Room-Occupancy residences, meaning that they lack access to full cooking facilities. There are three types of SROs; 1) Rooms with a burner and an oven, 2) Rooms with electric sockets and accessibility to rice cookers and kettles, and 3) Rooms with poor electricity and do not allow for any cooking inputs.
III. Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
Since the correlation between cooking facilities and healthy eating is strong, we have identified that the implementation of kitchens into the Tenderloin community is an area of focus. We plan to research the availability of kitchen spaces within buildings and the possibility of building community kitchens within high occupancy areas.
Another area of focus is the availability of fresh produce and healthy food products within the Tenderloin area, specifically the food that is on sale in corner stores. We would like to increase the accessibility and selection of healthy foods within the immediate area in order to allow for residents to take up healthy and sustainable diets. This will require discussions with corner store business owners and partnering with neighbourhood revitalisation agencies in order to assist with the corner store transformation process. We will also converse with members of the community to gain a greater understanding of the changes they would like to see.
The third area of focus relates to education and marketing strategies. Although it is essential for healthy resources and cooking facilities to become accessible to Tenderloin residents, it is particularly important to ensure that these resources are sustainable and will continue to be used by the community. We would like to identify methods with which we could educate the community, perhaps by creating cooking programs/classes for residents and also teaching residents the importance of eating a healthy diet to maintain a positive lifestyle. Ideally, we would be able to include the younger members of the population, such as students in high school, so that they will become involved and invested in the revitalisation project.
In the past few years, the diverse Tenderloin neighborhood has undergone immense demographic shifts reflective of much of San Francisco. Although the influx of technological companies and workers has the potential to provide much needed resources, there is also the danger of gentrification as well as what Ryan called “mental displacement”, a phenomenon where residents who are safe from physical displacement no longer feel at home in an area due to the cultural shifts and retail changes taking place. One of our major tasks in this project then is to work to determine community needs around retail spaces and businesses that serve these needs.
After talking with Lorenzo and Ryan about the work that the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation does within the community, it became clear how dependent their work is on strong interpersonal relationships with locals. As we move forward and begin to clarify our scope of work, it will be important to keep our work and outputs grounded by the voices and opinions of those who live within the Tenderloin.