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Making great food products while combating poverty in southeastern Pennsylvania

Lancaster entrepreneur Charlie Crystle, whose food products are finding an enthusiastic audience in Greater Philadelphia, has a specific philosophy on the trouble with America’s economy.

According to the Lancaster Food Company CEO, what we need is "an effort to make jobs that meet people where they are, rather than where we want them to be." Politicians and civic leaders talk a lot about job training, but especially in a city like Lancaster -- which has a 30 percent poverty rate -- this falls short. Focusing on job training programs rather than immediately accessible jobs "continues to push the responsibility for unemployment onto the unemployed…if we don’t do something to meet them halfway, or all the way, [they] will never have decent employment," he argues.

Hiring people in poverty with a good living wage is a part of his company's mission. Crystle founded the company alongside his childhood friend Craig Lauer, who serves as chief product officer, in 2014. After launching and then exiting two software startups, living coast-to-coast and working in Central America with a program for street kids, Crystle felt a strong desire to create a company at home with a social as well as an economic impact.

Lancaster Food Company specializes in organic and sustainably sourced breads, spreads, salsas and jams, including sandwich rye and cinnamon raisin swirl bread, sunflower seed spreads, and limited-edition small-batch toppings from locally grown ingredients such as golden orange tomato salsa and organic strawberry jam. A Lancaster Heritage Grain bread is also on the way this fall.

While their products are handmade, Crystle insists Lancaster Food Company is already a scalable business -- their target market ranges from Washington, D.C., to the New York metro area, with a large presence in Philly. Currently, you can find their products at Mariposa and Weavers Way food co-ops, Reading Terminal Market, area Shop-Rites and the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. They just closed an exciting deal with five Wegman’s stores in Southeastern PA, and have their sights set on Whole Foods; look for their products on the shelves of a location in Wayne soon.

That increased reach means more room to advance the company’s social philosophy: hiring people in poverty struggling to find jobs. The company was launched with "a demand for jobs that require relatively low skills, and could meet people where they are in terms of their education, work history or legal background," explains Crystle, something that was difficult to achieve with his prior work in tech startups. "We’re trying to scale so that we can hire hundreds of people, not dozens."

He’s also adamant about the value of supporting local businesses and enjoys being able to tap into the vibrant agriculture of the Lancaster area.

"Every dollar that we spend locally has…three times the impact on our local economy" as money spent on goods from corporations in faraway states, he explains. That adds up to a business as committed to combating poverty as it is to pleasing customers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Charlie Crystle, Lancaster Food Company


Community funding propels G-Town Radio from the internet to the airwaves

G-Town Radio station manager Jim Bear says that though it might not yet be visible to the public, big changes are underway for Germantown’s Internet radio station, which at its highest listenership has over 15,000 people tuning in worldwide.

The major news broke in January, when the station got its permit from the FCC to become a Low Power FM radio station -- new federal legislation gave non-commercial neighborhood groups access to low-power airwaves previously denied them in favor of major broadcasting frequencies.

"To serve the community as best we can, being on the radio allows us to do that much better than we can online,” explains Bear who is still "a big believer" in Internet radio. "I love the medium. I love what you can do with it, but at the same time, there are real limitations to who you can expect to reach. I think that would be true anywhere, but I think it’s even more evident in a community like Germantown."

In many neighborhoods, the digital divide is still very real. Unlike Internet access, which can be costly and require certain skills to tune in, radio is still a ubiquitous and easily accessible medium, free for everyone with a car or a radio in the home. (The station will continue to broadcast online as well.)

With an existing studio and programming, G-town Radio (which will share airtime with Germantown United CDC and Germantown Life Enrichment Center) is ahead of some nascent LPFM stations who must build their presence from the ground up.

Right now, Bear is looking into locations and lease agreements with local property owners who might be able to host a radio antenna on the roof. The studio space itself won’t require much additional equipment: the primary expense of shifting to LPFM will be that new transmission equipment, including the gear that beams the audio from the studio to the tower.

To that end, G-Town Radio has launched a "Drive for the Sky" crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo, hoping to raise $5,000 by October 3. That will cover the initial costs of equipment and installation, and possibly the first few months of rent for the antenna location.

"We want to make sure we get to the air… [and] demonstrate our worth, and hopefully when we’re doing that, people will recognize the value of community radio, and give us access to a larger pool of donors and supporters and listeners," enthuses Bear.

He hopes the new G-town Radio signal -- available at 92.9 FM -- will hit the airwaves as soon as possible: They’re on an FCC-administered deadline requiring completion of LPFM construction within 18 months of receiving the permit, which means launching by next summer at the latest. The signal is expected to reach what Bear calls "greater Northwest Philadelphia," including Germantown, East Falls, Nicetown, Mt. Airy and West Oak Lane. (Depending on location and the density of area buildings, LPFM signals typically have a three to five mile radius.)

"A lot of it’s behind the scenes so there’s not much to see," says Bear of the LPFM progress so far, "but we’re actively working on it and we’re still moving forward."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jim Bear, G-Town Radio

Meet A Poet Art Gallery, On the Groundís host in Parkside

On August 11, Flying Kite announced the official relaunch of On the Ground, and we’re already enjoying the hospitality of our home for the next three months, Girard Avenue's A Poet Art Gallery.

The gallery, founded in late 2010, was originally located at 4510 Walnut Street before moving to 40th and Girard in Parkside. The three founders, Rachelle Pierre-Louis, Shar Coles and New York-based Tina Albright recently chatted with Flying Kite about their history and mission.

"We just wanted to create a space for artists to basically have a home," explains Pierre-Louis.

Events at the Girard Avenue space include weekly (every Tuesday night) and monthly ("Sounds in the Gallery" every first Saturday) open mic events for poetry and music, plus art exhibitions, African dance classes and, coming soon, painting classes. The gallery is also available to rent for a variety of events, including weddings.

The three women's artistic backgrounds are about as diverse as they come. The Haitian-born Pierre-Louis came to the U.S. when she was 11, first settling with family in Los Angeles for a year, then relocating to Philly where she completed the rest of her education, including a graphic design degree.

"I’ve been drawing since I was six years old," she says; Pierre-Louis now works in acrylics and oils, as well as tattoo art.

Coles, an alum of University City High School, is a Philadelphia native who grew up in South and West Philly. She loves all kinds of art and describes herself as "an inside poet" because she enjoys putting words together, but doesn’t always share them in public.

Albright is an interior designer and art-decal maker, but she also shares carpentry skills with Coles. Her artistic expertise extends into the culinary realm: She creates custom cakes in a variety of shapes including handbags and shoes.

"We pretty much all had a hand in building the gallery," recalls Albright.

The three put even more work into their Girard Avenue space than the Walnut Street one -- they raised the ceiling, laid down new floors, and designed and created the bathrooms. The location even boasts a backyard.

The women admire the better-known gallery corridors of Old City, but saw no reason not to bring the same caliber of art and community-building to West Philly. According to Pierre-Louis, they have a broad client base across the city, but want to connect more closely with their nearest neighbors. When she got wind of On the Ground, it sounded like the perfect "missing piece" of their mission for the gallery.

"We’ve been trying to get in touch and pool a little bit more of the community and we haven’t had that chance," she continues; the Flying Kite connection was the right thing at the right time. "We want people to come out and appreciate art and see something different…and decide to pick up some paint and write some poetry, and we want to inspire people and be in our home base, which is West Philly."

The address is 4032 Girard Avenue, and Flying Kite will be in residence there every Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. through October.

"We’re always looking for artists," adds Pierre-Louis. "The door is always open."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Rachelle Pierre-Louis, Shar Coles, and Tina Albright, APoetArtGallery 


An urban farm sprouts in Chinatown thanks to Grow Where You Live

Meei Ling Ng, a Singapore-born, Philly-based artist, designer and urban farmer, has taken on a multifaceted project in Chinatown North. The initiative features a vertical urban farm, a job-skills program for people in recovery from addiction or homelessness, and a new fount of fresh food for the partnering Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.

The impetus for Ng's new project grew out of Grow Where You Live, her year-long Social Practice Lab residency at the Asian Arts Initiative. It was supposed to wrap up in June, but the current urban garden project has proven so successful that Ng's Asian Arts residency has been extended at least until the end of this year.

"Ideally I was looking for a vacant lot around the neighborhood," says Ng of a long search for an appropriate urban farm space and partner organization. Such a space -- open to the work of an artist and farmer -- was hard to find, partly because of recent gentrification in the area.

A tour of the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission late last year proved extremely propitious: Ng learned that the organization, which provides a range of vital services to the city’s homeless, was in the process of a parking lot space swap with their neighbors to the west, Roman Catholic High School.

The switch would leave a large space along Sunday Breakfast’s kitchen wall -- about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long -- empty of cars by law.

"This is amazing. This is exactly what we want," Ng recalls thinking on seeing the space; she envisioned a specially designed and built vertical urban farm. "We can use a whole big empty wall with asphalt under…this could be an awesome, awesome project."

The artist spent a month on a meticulous rendering of her idea, then pitched it to Sunday Breakfast. The project became reality through support and donations from Asian Arts, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, City Harvest and South Philly’s Urban Jungle, a landscape design firm.

Since then, the little farm has provided pounds of produce that go directly into meals served at Sunday Breakfast.

The partnership also has a human component: The farm runs with help from workers at Overcomers, an intensive 16-month program for men in recovery from addiction and homelessness. They reap a wealth of skills -- not only the ability to grow their own healthy food in an urban setting, but practical job training in a rapidly growing industry. The formal part of the Overcomers project is finished, but a few participants have stayed on as official apprentices and volunteers.

"This is very exciting that we have a team now to work on the farm," says Ng, adding that she has high hopes the project will continue in future summers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Meei Ling Ng, Asian Arts Initiative

A major merger supports big plans in Fairmount Park

Big news keeps coming out of Fairmount Park: On April 21, the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust, the two nonprofits that support the city's park system, formally announced their merger.

The Conservancy, founded as the Fairmount Park Foundation in 1997, began primarily as a fundraising agent for the park, but in the last few years, the organization has partnered with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to branch into many aspects of planning, project management and outreach. It’s now also helming the recently-announced Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative.

The Trust, a public/private venture launched in 1992, focuses on professional preservation services to nonprofits and City agencies, managing historic buildings, public art and "cultural landscapes."

The new combined organization -- boasting the name Fairmount Park Conservancy -- isn’t shedding any jobs on either side; it will employ a combined staff of 16 and have an annual operating budget of about $2 million. Former Conservancy Executive Director Kathryn Ott Lovell will continue in that role while former Trust Executive Director Lucy Strackhouse has transitioned into the title of senior director of preservation and project management. 

Bringing the two groups together was a long process.

"We started talking about merging in 2007," recalls Strackhouse. A lot of meetings took place, but "then 2008 happened," and city-wide financial pressures caused by the recession led the organizations to table the talks until 2010.

But once the discussion was back on track -- with the help of pro bono legal services from Pepper Hamilton -- the boards reached a memorandum of understanding in mid-2014, with official notice of the merger reaching both offices at the end of the year.

While the January merger was no secret, the delay of a formal public announcement until late April had to do with getting the new organization’s branding and website up to speed.

"What we’re really going to be looking at is not just preserving these resources for history’s sake, but really thinking about how the historic properties are activated in new ways," says Lovell. "What you’ll see from our combined entities are some really exciting announcements about historic properties reimagined."

Between PennPraxis' plan The New Fairmount Park, the Civic Commons, and other initiatives, "City government can’t manage on their own," says Lovell of the Conservancy’s increasingly important role in Fairmount Park stewardship.

These plans encompass the natural, historical and cultural assets of the park, she adds, "reinforcing the fact that the merger is a really positive thing for both organizations, but ultimately for the park."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Kathryn Ott Lovell and Lucy Strackhouse, the Fairmount Park Conservancy

Community College of Philadelphia makes tuition free for eligible students

Earlier this month, Community College of Philadelphia announced its 50th Anniversary Scholarship program -- the school is offering associate's degrees at no cost to eligible Philadelphia high school graduates. And that was only the beginning of the good news.

On April 16, word came down that Philly native and Community College of Philadelphia graduate Deesha Dyer has been named White House Social Secretary. According to a statement from the White House, before starting as an intern in 2009, Dyer worked for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust for nine years; she also worked as a freelance journalist from 2003 through 2010. Dyer returned to college at age 29 to get an associate’s degree in Women’s Studies.

"It really is great news," says Greg Murphy, vice president for institutional advancement and executive director of the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation. The national limelight seems perfectly timed to shine a light on the school's new program, which jump-starts a college education for motivated local students who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

"Basically, it’s meant to eliminate barriers," he explains, adding that these are "last dollar scholarships." That means eligible students file a FAFSA and those dollars get added to any state help available (including Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance) and funds from applicable grant programs. But if there’s still a gap in the tuition owed, Community College of Philadelphia can now step in with a scholarship to cover those costs, putting an associate’s degree within reach for the cost of the textbooks.

The program covers any Pell-eligible 2015 graduate of a Philadelphia high school who wants to enroll this fall. They must satisfy the college-level academic placement requirement and be enrolled full-time (at least 12 credits per semester) in a degree program of study.

The scholarship, which the students will apply for annually along with their FAFSA, is good for up to three years or through the completion of an associate’s degree, whichever comes first. To remain eligible for the dollars, students will need to maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA at the end of each year and meet a few other requirements, including at least one campus or community-based extra-curricular activity.

"The idea is you really want to fund students who are making progress," insists Murphy. "All of that contributes to a student who is eager and ready to enter the workforce or further their education. It’s truly part of what the city wants. The city is looking at a future where they need many workers with higher-level skills, and so we are trying to match what the city needs in terms of creating skilled workers."

The college's 50th Anniversary Scholarship dollars are philanthropic not public. According to a statement, the program is projected to cost $200,000 in year one, $300,000 the following year and $350,000 in year three.

"I don’t think anything before has excited the Foundation board to raise money as much as this has," adds Murphy. "They’re really inspired by this scholarship and what it can do for the City of Philadelphia."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Greg Murphy, the Community College of Philadelphia


Update: Lancaster Avenue's Neighborhood Time Exchange makes a difference

Winnipeg native and Montreal resident Kandis Friesen loved the two months she spent in Philly this year as part of Lancaster Avenue's Neighborhood Time Exchange (NTE) residency, which offers studio space and a stipend for hours of service the artists contribute to community-based projects.

The intitative, continuing with multiple artist cycles until the fall, is a partnership of the Mural Arts Program, the Ontario-based Broken City Lab and the People's Emergency Center.

An interdisciplinary artist who works with media including sound and video, Friesen, in her mid-30s, has been working as an artist only for the last five years or so.

"Before that, I was doing social justice-based and community-based work," she explains. "I’ve always seen it as part of my life, whether I’m making art or working a different job."

During her NTE stint (which ran from February 1 through April 1), she offered some of those project-manager skills to her peers: negotiating time, projects and space. In a program connecting residency artists to community service requests, that meant "working with really diverse groups of people who might have really different ideas, or similar ideas but…really different personalities," she explains.

Her own contribution to the neighborhood had many facets. She worked with the New Africa Center on a walking tour of Black History in West Philly, focusing on the saga of the self-identified Black Bottom Tribe, a thriving 19th-century African-American community living where University City stands today. The Tribe suffered forcible evictions under city development plans and university expansions in the early 1900s, alongside redlining laws that made it nearly impossible for African Americans to obtain mortgages.

This especially touched on Friesen’s interest in archives and memorials -- and how they’re made and maintained.

She also did a lot of work for the Artistic and Cultural Enrichment (ACE) Program at Martha Washington Elementary School.
ACE instructor Hope McDowell had written a script called More Than Martin, and enlisted Friesen to help her shoot and edit it. In the film, now available online, Martin Luther King, Jr. comes back to say, as Friesen explains, "I’ve been carrying Black History for myself for too long…I would like to introduce you to all these other people in African-American history, and you also might make history."

"It’s a great film, in line with my own practice as well," enthuses the artist. "People being able to tell their own histories."

She also led a variety of arts workshops for Martha Washington students, and collaborated with her fellow NTE artists on other projects, including time with the Earthship Philadelphia project and the New Bethlehem Baptist Church.

"We all helped each other in different ways, and that was also really nice to have a collaborative environment for our community work," she adds. "I think the strength of this residency was that it really was an infrastructure created." The artist residents didn’t operate on any assumptions about what they were bringing to the neighborhood: instead, they listened to hear what needed to be done, to "reinforce or connect what is already happening."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Kandis Friesen, Neighborhood Time Exchange


A North Philly grant leaves no excuse for litter

Earlier this year, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) announced a new micro-grant program to help local community organizations boost safety, walkability and commerce through resident-led clean-up programs. The first round of grantees included the North 5th Street Revitalization Project, which received $1000. The dollars are already going a long way on a range of initiatives.

The North 5th Street Revitalization Project has been operating since 2008 with funding from the Commerce Department. While their umbrella organization is the Korean Community Development Services Center, they have their own branding and offices.

The initiative's service area covers about a mile and a half of the Olney neighborhood: It runs from Roosevelt Boulevard to Spencer Street, and then a block on each side of N. 5th Street. The organization runs a sidewalk cleaning program (including two staffers who work five days a week to keep litter off the streets), removes "bandit signs," logs and repairs dozens of 311 issues each month and leads neighborhood cleanups, like April 11's city-wide Philly Spring Cleanup Day, which drew about sixty neighbors to volunteer.

The Project also focuses on public safety, holding twice-yearly meetings with police representatives and local merchants to discuss issues of crime and security, and helping participating businesses install security cameras through a dedicated city program. And it provides a wide range of business assistance, from helping locals get business permits or apply for eligible grant programs, to facilitating a business association and offering financing help.

"We have 340 active businesses on North 5th Street," says Program Director Philip Green. Most of them are small "mom and pop" stores, and many are "immigrant-owned and operated, so it’s really hard for them to obtain traditional bank loans."

Finally, the Project promotes the corridor in general through events such as open mic nights, community clean-ups and seasonal programming.

The KPB dollars funded a fun DIY photo-shoot for Philly Spring Cleanup Day volunteers, which the organization will share throughout the coming year, keeping the spirit of the clean-up alive and reminding people that maintaining the neighborhood is a year-round activity.

Leftover dollars will go to projects such as revamping the Project’s existing brochure on responsible homeownership and neighborhood maintenance, and translating it into multiple languages for Olney’s diverse community. Green also hopes the money will help buy more "Keep 5th Clean" tee-shirts -- like the ones teen clean-up crew captains wore on April 11 -- as well as decals for neighborhood recycling bins.

"Community clean-ups aren’t really about the trash ending up in a trash bag and going away to the dump," explains Green. "It’s really about the message that community residents cleaning up sends to other people."

Teenagers working in festive matching shirts are particularly motivating, he hopes.

"People will see that and realize that they have absolutely no excuse to litter, and no excuse not to take pride in their neighborhood."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Philip Green, North 5th Street Revitalization Project


New GSK dollars at the Food Trust will boost youth health and wellness citywide

A $5 million GSK IMPACT Grant to a Philadelphia collective led by The Food Trust will allow the local food and health access leader to significantly expand its existing HYPE (Healthy You, Positive Energy) program to reach 50,000 kids over the next three years.

The dollars, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation, are going to boost programs at nine partner organizations citywide, with a special focus on North Philadelphia. The new collective’s work will be known as Get HYPE Philly!
HYPE has already been working with local kids in about 100 different schools over the last several years, explains Food Trust executive director Yael Lehmann.

"It’s going to build on this existing program," she says. "And at the same time we’re going to be working with all these other groups," who will also be expanding their own work. 

The Get HYPE collective includes Guild House West’s Greener Partners, East Park Revitalization Alliance’s Common Market, The Village of Arts and Humanities, and the Garden Education Program of Norris Square Neighborhood Project. Also partnering under the Food Trust umbrella are the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center (and branch-based teen mentoring program), The Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, The Philadelphia Youth Network, The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation and Equal Measure, which will help evaluate the Get HYPE programming’s impact throughout the grant’s three-year span.

Some of these organizations will focus on urban farming, nutrition, literacy through food-based activities, and exercise; others will build on different aspects of overall health such as workforce development and entrepreneurship.

"This is really going to strengthen the networking between all of our agencies," insists Lehmann. "It’s going to have this awesome ripple effect throughout the city."

Lehmann is particularly excited about the new youth advisory board the grant will create, which will consist of about fifteen to twenty teens from around the city. They will be able to direct mini-grants of up to $2,000 (or a total of $70,000 per year for the life of the program) to student-led initiatives focused on things such as exercise, urban agriculture and healthy food donations.

"It’s not just window-dressing. They’re going to have some work to do," Lehmann says of the students who will be involved (their selection process is still TBD).

The grant’s allowance for evaluating the programs is also important, she insists, "to be able to tell the story, and look at how this is impacting kids in Philly, and help us adjust as needed."

And she hopes Get HYPE Philly! will continue far beyond the initial three-year roll-out.

“From day one, all the collective partners and the Food Trust will be thinking about how to sustain this beyond the grant," she says. "We see this as a long-term project."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Yael Lehmann, The Food Trust


PlanPhilly finds a new home at WHYY's NewsWorks

Ever since its launch in 2006 as a project of University of Pennsylvania’s PennPraxis design school, PlanPhilly has been in a fortunate yet challenging funding situation. Now, with a new home at WHYY's NewsWorks, the publication is looking at some exciting new horizons.
In itself, PlanPhilly is "not an entity," explains manager Matt Golas, a veteran journalist and former Metro editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The publication features in-depth reporting on the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, zoning code battles, and all aspects of the Philly's built environment, from transportation to historic preservation to casinos and the Delaware Waterfront.
"We're a project of something else that’s a 501 (c) 3, so the idea of bringing money in was unbelievably complex," says Golas. "We were very reliant on foundations."
Though PlanPhilly had the good fortune of funding from the William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation (which is making the current move possible), and the Knight Foundation, it had long wanted to expand and diversify its financial footing. And with increasing readership -- up to 150,000 pageviews per month -- that shift is warranted.
Their new home will help them achieve this goal. Golas will transition into the new title of project editor at NewsWorks, while maintaining a "non-fiduciary relationship" with Penn -- the university is supportive of the move and will continue to help PlanPhilly get the scoop. (The site's reporters and editors will become independent contractors at WHYY.)
"They’re fundraising experts," says Golas of WHYY. "It has way more potential for us to generate some revenue and work toward being more sustainable."
With longterm financial stability, Golas hopes PlanPhilly will be able to expand their coverage in the Northeast and other outlying areas of the suburbs such as Conshohocken, Cherry Hill and King of Prussia. They want to produce a record of more zoning and development meetings, and also to begin to master the world of podcasts and radio segments.
And the benefits aren’t just for PlanPhilly: WHYY’s NewsWorks, a longtime content partner, will get a boost as well.

"We have some unique areas of coverage and unique people doing it," explains Golas. Examples include their in-depth coverage of zoning issues, their attention to the Land Bank, and stories about transportation geared towards the user experience. Since so many people listen to WHYY in their cars or while riding on SEPTA, it’s a perfect fit.

In the future, the PlanPhilly site may merge with the NewsWorks site, but for now, they're staying put. While PlanPhilly reporters will work out of WHYY headquarters when they’re not out on their beats, "you’re going to able to find PlanPhilly the same way you find it now," insists Golas.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Matt Golas, PlanPhilly

Alaina Mabaso is also a freelance contributor at WHYY’s NewsWorks. 

Rad Dish is Temple's new sustainable student food co-op

Temple University junior Lauren Troop started out as an environmental studies major, but when she became part of a bold new food co-op business plan with her fellow students, she found the perfect convergence of her interests, and switched to studying entrepreneurship.

The concept for Rad Dish, which opened on February 5 in a former Sodexo café space in Ritter Hall, grew out of a student research project completed a few years ago. The idea failed to move forward once the original thinkers graduated.

But then founding Rad Dish co-op members got hold of the idea, and began working in fall 2013 to make the space a reality. The group met under the auspices and mentorship of Temple’s Office of Sustainability, with participation from campus organizations such as Students for Environmental Action, Temple Community Garden and Net Impact, the university’s sustainable business club.

The team started meeting once a week with help from a three-credit independent study course that allowed them to devote the necessary number of hours to getting the co-op café off the ground. Meetings with West Philly’s Mariposa food co-op, as well as other student groups, including one from the University of Maryland, helped them clarify their vision.

"Our mission was really to provide affordable locally and ethically sourced fresh food to our Temple community," explains Troop, a Lancaster native. "We do that by sourcing everything within 150 miles."

Items like tea and coffee and certain spices, which the co-op can’t get locally, are sourced through a major organic and fair-trade supplier. 

Rad Dish opened its doors with the help of one year of free rent from Temple and $30,000 in seed money from the Office of Sustainability to help cover the first round of inventory and salaries for workers.

The space is a café now, but Rad Dish organizers hope to expand into more of a grocery model as they gain experience and more local, seasonal produce becomes available. In the meantime, the space already has its own appealing vibe, with floor-to-ceiling windows and art on the walls.

The community has already started to embrace the idea. Someone donated a bike-powered blender, and then a record-payer.

"People have just started to bring in random stuff that made it a unique space to hang out in," says Troop.

Prospects for the co-op’s future are good, she adds: a large crop of sophomores are just now stepping into leadership roles, replacing graduating founders.

"My favorite part about the project is how we’ve incorporated so many fields of study and so many people with different majors," insists Troops. "There are people from our business school, arts school, communications, engineering, and people who just love food."

Rad Dish is now open from 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in Ritter Hall, on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and 13th Street.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source, Lauren Troop, Rad Dish

Microgrants will launch community anti-litter initiatives in 2015

Last week, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) released a new RFP for community nonprofits looking to nab seed funds for their anti-litter initiatives.

"You can have all the ideas in the world but not secure the funds to do it," explains Michelle Feldman, the organization's director. "At Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, we're not the only ones with good ideas."

The new program consists of three microgrants: two of $1,000 and one of $500. A former CDC employee herself, Feldman knows how far even a small amount of money can go for a community group trying to get a new idea off the ground.

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful "believes that communities know their challenges and opportunities best," says the RFP of working through grantees on litter abatement. "We want to provide community-based organizations with the resources to help solve neighborhood beautification concerns, and the space to experiment and test new ideas."

Successful applicants will need to demonstrate measurable, collaborative, sustainable and scalable impact, says Feldman (she expects at least ten to 15 applicants for the inaugural round). The organization will consider brand-new proposals or expansions of existing programs that meet the criteria.

Empirical data proves that tackling litter can have a direct impact on factors like the growth of small businesses, property values, crime, and perception of the neighborhood both inside and outside the community. According to Feldman, a good example of community innovation on the issue is the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation's $1-A-Day program -- participating businesses each contribute $365 a year toward daily litter clean-up.

It turned into "a great way to help fund the daily cleaning and involve the community, and give them ownership over the cleaning effort," she explains.

The hope is that this year’s participants will be help model best practices, inspiring and informing other groups in the future.

Proposals are due on March 1; the winners will be selected by March 15. The project cycle will run through December 15, 2015.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful

EFE Labs boosts local startups through Ben Franklin Technology Partners alliance

For many aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses, finding the money to design and prototype their ideas can be a tremendous challenge.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) helps bridge that gap through its various programs and grant offerings, and a new alliance with EFE Laboratories will provide young companies with even more of the connections, technical expertise and financial capital they need to bring their products to market.

Led by majority owner and engineer Kip Anthony, EFE is a leading manufacturer of controllers, communication tools, medical devices, and other electrical and mechanical engineering solutions.

With 35 employees and growing, the Horsham-based lab has already helped clients obtain matching Ben Franklin FabNet (BFFN) prototyping grants.

For example, its work with SureShade has allowed founder Dana Russikoff to both expand the company's market reach, and move the design and manufacturing of its retractable boat shades back to the Philadelphia area.

Not content to simply refer clients to the BFFN program, EFE actively reaches out to growing companies facing various developmental challenges and a lack of R&D capital.

"I’m trying to make sure that, through the network and connections I have, clients receive the help they need to move their manufacturing process forward," says Anthony.

An established engineer with an MBA, Anthony understands the vital role manufacturing plays in the economy, and is passionate about sharing EFE's capabilities and experience with the larger entrepreneurial community.

"There are a lot of good people behind this," he insists, discussing how EFE's new alliance might help bring manufacturing jobs back to the region. "[There’s] a lot of shared passion, and a lot of drive and desire to succeed."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Kip Anthony, EFE Laboratories


Mr. Milkman, an organic dairy delivery service, is now available in Philly

All it took was a single taste of Trickling Springs Creamery's premium ice cream to convince Dan Crump he had to leave his job at FedEx and follow his passion of supporting local farms and healthy organic eating.

Shortly thereafter, he purchased the Lancaster County-based organic dairy delivery service known as Mr. Milkman.

At the time, Mr. Milkman had a limited delivery area and only a few customers -- it was really more of a hobby than a business for its previous owner.

"I knew it would mean a pay cut," recalls Crump. "But I also knew I could use my FedEx [logistics] knowledge to make [the business] work."

Almost immediately after purchasing Mr. Milkman, Crump began to wonder whether or not he should expand services to Philadelphia. Without an advertising budget or established customer base, he figured the costs would be prohibitive. Fortunately, a fruitful visit to Reading Terminal Market convinced Crump to add Philadelphia-area delivery services a few months back.

Now, thanks to the airing of a spotlight piece on Lancaster County’s WGAL last week, Mr. Milkman’s business in Philadelphia has taken off.

Due to the spike in orders, the company has added new Philly-area routes. It delivers each Saturday, and is poised to continue its growth with a hiring push. Crump is also working with a gluten-free bakery and will be offering fruit and veggie boxes this spring.

In addition to Trickling Springs Creamery dairy products, Danda Farms organic meats, artisan cheeses, raw honey and a number of other organic goodies, Mr. Milkman also delivers raw milk from Swiss Villa.

"We’re dedicated to supporting our local organic farmers and their workers," says Crump, "while ensuring that busy moms, families, and other [Philadelphia] residents have access to healthy food."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Dan Crump, Mr. Milkman


Germantown United CDC hiring its first commercial corridor manager

In a neighborhood as historic as Philadelphia's Germantown, the Germantown United CDC (GUCDC) is an anomaly: The organization isn't yet three years old.
When it formed in late 2011, the community was still reeling from allegations of severe mismanagement on the part of Germantown Settlement, a social services agency. During its formative months, Germantown United's main goal involved becoming known as a trusted and transparent community partner.
To a large degree, that goal has been accomplished. GUCDC regularly hosts well-attended events and forums, and recently undertook a business district tree-planting campaign.
Now, according to Executive Director Andrew Trackman, the organization is hiring its first commercial corridor manager. The position's first-year salary will be covered as part of a reimbursable $75,000 grant from the Commerce Department.
The corridor manager's responsibilities will mainly involve working as a liaison to the business and property owners of the Germantown and Chelten Avenue business districts. They might listen to retailers' complaints, for instance, or help them apply for development grants such as the Commerce Department's Storefront Improvement Program (SIP).    
"We're looking for this corridor manager to be kind of a defacto business association head," explains Trackman. The new employee will also be heavily involved in business corridor cleanup efforts in coordination with the Germantown Special Services District.
"[Local businesses] need help with capacity and technical assistance," he adds. "We're just trying to improve the overall business climate of the district."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Andrew Trackman, Germantown United CDC
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