The Akron Cooperative…

…is a community-based, public education organization which saw that the health and quality of life of low-income families in their community were being negatively affected by poor conditions within the “food landscape” such as insufficient access to nutritious and healthy foods, disenfranchisement from regional agriculture and food production, lack of nutritional knowledge and limited capacity to meet their own food consumption needs. 

Seeking to address the rise of diet-related chronic diseases and improve the quality of life in the community, the Akron Cooperative’s mission is to build a local food system that improves the health and economy of the Akron community.  Our approach is to utilize the valuable resources and productive traditions in the Akron community, engaging youth and families to improve the conditions of their neighborhoods. TAC focuses on sustainable agriculture, nutrition education, entrepreneurship, and youth development as the means for creating change in the Akron area.

The cooperative’s primary goals for the community are:


Educate residents about food systems, sustainable agriculture, cooking, and nutrition.


Provide access to locally grown, healthy, culturally appropriate and affordable food.


Engage and train youth as leaders in the food system and their community.


Build self-reliance through employment, training, and local business development.


Build the capacity to produce food locally through sustainable agriculture. 

TAC operates three program areas in support of a sustainable food system, community health, and job creation. Each program involves community and youth participation.




With 80% of the world’s population now living in cities, urban areas are increasingly important places in developing ecologically sustainable food systems. TAC works to develop, advocate and educate for new forms of agricultural food production and land use within urban areas. We work to increase community self-reliance by increasing the local capacity to grow and produce food through a robust network of gardens and micro-farms. 



We work to increase the capacity within the City of Akron to grow food and increase the availability of affordable and fresh produce for urban residents. Our Urban Agriculture Program currently operates 3 urban garden projects in the Akron area that are interconnected into a system of sustainable food production:


1) The City of Akron’s “Grow Akron” Community Gardens consist of 6 urban gardens with resident garden plots.  These sites, once abandoned and blighted vacant lots, now have over 40 vegetable beds that will produce an abundance of seasonal produce, herbs, perennials, flowers and natives plants.


2) The University Park Alliance’s (UPA) Community Garden Program aims to establish three (3) community gardens throughout the University Park Alliance (UPA) area while developing 15 to 20 additional garden sites for future use.

The Akron Cooperative (TAC) is collaborating with the UPA and its partners to develop and implement a comprehensive community garden program with the long term goal of developing social enterprises and small business food enterprises that will increase access to fresh, local, and healthy foods in the University Park neighborhoods while also contributing to community economic development by providing employment and training opportunities to local residents.  


3) The Cascade Village Community Garden is the result of The Community Builders, Inc. (TCB) selecting TAC to develop a community garden for the residents of the Cascade Village housing development, on a lot located adjacent to the Village and also owned by the City of Akron, serving as the site for a 40' x 60' community garden where the residents of Cascade Village grow their own healthy food.  In addition to establishing the garden plots, TAC is providing both nutritional education and socially-oriented cooking classes called “Stone Soup Party” events as well as community art projects.  Cascade Village is talking with TAC now about doubling the size of the original garden due to a waiting list of residents wanting to participate in the gardening.


TAC creates awareness in the Akron community about sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, nutrition and healthy eating to enable residents to improve their health, strengthen the local economy and build a stronger relationship to food and farming. We develop educational programs that engage children, teens and adults in hands-on learning to transform their lifestyles towards health and civic engagement. 


Akron Food Systems Training Program – provides University Park youth with realistic urban agriculture training to make a difference in their community by becoming leaders in building a local food system and increasing community food security. The program provides hands on leadership development for youth by engaging them in community gardening, nutrition education and entrepreneurship.


Nutrition for Healthy Living – Dubbed the “Eating for Healthy Community” cooking class, this program offers residents focused on the preparation of balanced meals using healthy ingredients.  Led by cooking and nutrition instructors from the UA, these classes present creative cooking activities that promote healthy lifestyles based on fundamental cooking knowledge and ingredient selection.


Peer-2-Peer Education Program – Based on the belief that informed young people are the best agents for delivering relevant nutrition education to their peers, the Peer-2-Peer Education Program was founded by a group of youth staff members at TAC to develop workshops and presentations on nutrition, food preferences and healthy eating targeted to elementary, middle and high schools, after school programs, church groups and special events.


Garden Nutrition Program – Recognizing the benefits that gardening presents for nutrition education and physical activity for all residents of UPA, the Garden Nutrition Program combines gardening activities, nutrition workshops and interactive cooking classes to deliver fun and hands-on education to the children and youth attending Mason and Legget Elementary Schools.  

Food & Justice Camp – TAC will organize a Food & Justice Camp in partnership with other local food security organizations. The camp is targeted at low-income youth from the Akron area and other low-income areas of the Summit County Area to introduce and educate young people about various issues related to health and food in today’s society, including local food systems, sustainable agriculture, healthy eating, nutrition and physical activity.  

Farmer’s Camp - TAC will facilitate a partnership between Crown Point Ecology Center, the Countryside Conservancy and the Ohio Department Agriculture to develop and establish a “Farmer’s Camp.”   Urban high school students would learn the basics of local organic agriculture in a month long working “internship”   

Community Kitchen Initiative - To address the problem of poverty as it relates to food security and access to affordable and healthy meals during summer vacation for families of school age children who rely on the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to meet their nutritional needs through Akron Public Schools*, TAC will develop this initiative to build a city-wide web of Community Kitchens where low-income families can pool resources, purchase in bulk, and cook together to slash meal costs.  The initiative includes teaching families to sustain themselves nutritionally and financially through budgeting and menu planning.  A tremendous emphasis is placed on instruction, helping people make good choices concerning nutrition and meal planning.  TAC will coordinate with the City Fresh program to provide large quantities of produce at low cost to Community Kitchen participants.


*During the 2007- 2008 school year, the Child Nutrition Services Department provided 3,036,975 lunches and 1,399,156 breakfasts. This is the sixth year that the total amount of breakfast meals served has exceeded 1,000,000. These figures represent a daily average of 17,256 lunches and 7,950 breakfasts. During the 2007-2008 school year, Child Nutrition Services provided 65,684 after school snacks free of charge to students.  


TAC believes that social enterprises and small businesses are essential to addressing the complex needs that exist within the Akron community. Our enterprise development efforts focus on cultivating food enterprises that increase access to fresh, local, and healthy foods in Akron while also contributing to community economic development by providing training and employment opportunities to local residents. 

Community Kitchen Enterprise Initiative - As part of an economic enterprise program, TAC will collaborate with Akron Public Schools, Crown Point Ecology Center, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture to develop a pilot project to expand the Community Kitchen initiative into the school year to provide locally produced food to school lunch and breakfast programs through the “Farm to School** initiative.  Participants will receive training in kitchen safety, sanitation and nutrition, menu development, food preparation and bookkeeping and business skills.



**Farm to school initiatives involve connecting schools with local farms by bringing fresh, nutritious foods from local farms into school cafeterias and by offering students experiential learning opportunities through farm visits, food and nutrition educational activities, and an incorporated nutrition education curriculum. Such initiatives serve both to help support local farmers and keep food dollars in local economies, and to help create a generation of informed food consumers ? informed of the nutritional significance of their food choices, but also the economic, environmental, and social impact.



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