From James Beard award-winning restaurants to the vast Pepper Place Market, where people from across central Alabama convene on weekends to shop for locally grown fruits and vegetables, Birmingham is among the small cities favorited by food lovers and culinary experts across the nation. Unfortunately, not everyone in the city has access to this food scene, let alone fresh or locally harvested produce. Nearly 70 percent of Birmingham residents live in neighborhoods that lack adequate access to quality, affordable fresh foods. These neighborhoods have been shaped in part by the historical legacy of racism in Birmingham, and Black and low-income residents in these neighborhoods face compounding health and economic inequities.
With this context in mind, there is fervor to create a food economy in Birmingham that is powered by the community and ensures that every resident has the access to healthy, neighborhood-based food institutions. FUSE will partner with Birmingham to build on the significant investments made through the city’s Healthy Food Initiative and facilitate community-driven hyper-local programs and policies that encourage food resilience across all neighborhoods in Birmingham. The Executive Fellow will work with food system stakeholders to co-design a curriculum that supports any interested resident in launching new ventures ranging from urban farms and mobile markets to basement food kitchens and last-mile delivery services. This work will play an essential role in advancing a food economy in the city that drives economic mobility, provides good jobs, and increases food access for Birmingham residents.