As mentioned in our last Coffee Chat blog post, Mode Shift Omaha collaborates with local groups that serve diverse groups and interests to promote our shared vision of creating a more equitable Omaha with transportation options for everyone. In order to break the cycle of poverty and create healthier choices and opportunities for everyone, we must advocate together for access to multiple, safe transportation options across the entire city.
Our April Coffee Chat guest was Nancy Williams, Founder & CEO at No More Empty Pots. The nonprofit No More Empty Pots (NMEP) serves “opportunity youth” (a more positive name for “at-risk youth”) and low-income families mostly in North Omaha. They developed two main initiatives to combat community concerns on food insecurity, lack of jobs, and community investment: urban agriculture programs and a shared-use commercial kitchen for training. Their main projects/programs include:
- Community Market Basket – Through a partnership with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organization, NMEP brings high quality, healthy, local food to citizens. Participants can use SNAP benefits to pay for fruit and vegetable shares and receive a 50% payment match. Food pick-ups are available weekly at locations throughout North Omaha.
- Community & School Gardens and Hands-On Nutrition Education – Fruits and vegetables are grown and sold at low or no costs to community members and students within the largest food desert in Nebraska. Hands-on nutrition education is provided with a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) focus.
- Collaborative Community-Centered Food Hub – Future food hub in Florence, a neighborhood in the North Omaha area known by City Councilman Pete Festersen as “Omaha’s original business district.” It will consist of a commercial kitchen, community cafe, cold/dry storage, and business incubator. Key deliverables will include job training, workforce readiness, food waste reduction, healthy food access, income generation, and business development.
- No More Empty Cups – A non-profit coffee shop (1502 S 10th St.) with two goals: 1) to provide a welcoming and inclusive community engagement space, and 2) to serve as an incubator for emerging small-scale food entrepreneurs to sell locally produced products. Eventually, it will offer an apprenticeship and internship program to provide workforce development training for youth and young adults.
Nancy sees a strong connection between NMEP’s and Mode Shift’s objectives. Both nonprofits are advocating for better choices for fundamental survival needs in Omaha, and one is a means (transportation) to an end (healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food). In order to access nutritious foods, the gardens and healthy, quality grocery stores must be easily accessible from multiple modes of transportation.
Another connection between insufficient food and transportation options is their direct link to poverty; specifically, keeping the poor down. A lack of healthy food choices leads to sickness, disease, and fatigue, which impacts one’s ability to learn and work. A lack of safe and reliable transportation options can negatively impact one’s ability to live, work, and play. Not having choices breeds poverty and decreases quality of life.
Advocating to the City for better food options and better transportation options will lead to individual economic resilience and self-sufficiency, which in turn will build a better Omaha. To break the cycle of poverty that many experience in our city, Omaha needs to prioritize providing healthier and more accessible options for food and transportation for everyone.
How can you get involved with No More Empty Pots? Check out their Events page on their website. They have a Local Foods Happy Hour Meetup (local beer and wine provided) the second Friday of every month at 5:30pm in the No More Empty Cups Community Room (not including June). Inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org about volunteer opportunities. Currently, they are actively seeking marketing volunteers.
The Coffee Chat meeting notes are available here.