HCP-MV Partner Spotlight: Cassandra Clevenger–Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership
Community Resource Coordinator: Convening, Collaborating & Connecting
The season has shifted into summer: temperatures are warming, flowers blooming, strawberries are heavy and ready for harvesting, busy bees are buzzing here and there–our June Partner Spotlight shines on Cassandra Clevenger, TNP’s Community Resource Coordinator, who is at the center of much of this hive of activity. Ms. Clevenger is also part of the cohort representing HCP in the CDC’s National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health and current Trumbull County Co-Chair for HCP’s Steering Committee.
There are a handful of HCP members whose work touches all three focus areas. Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership is one of those lucky partners to be connected so completely. The mission of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership is,“ to empower residents through programming and projects that improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods of Warren.” The staff have diligently developed programs and relationships, conducted outreach and research, and advocated for policies that accomplish this necessarily ambitious goal.
One of the areas TNP has focused their efforts is to improve access to healthy, affordable foods. Regular, consistent access to healthy foods is critical for individuals and communities to thrive. This might sound overly simplistic, but addressing and overcoming barriers to regular access to healthy affordable foods is anything but simple.
In 2017, TNP completed the Warren Community Food Security Strategic Plan, which provided a thorough diagnosis, assessment, and suggested remedies for the persistent presence of food hardship in Warren neighborhoods. This research and recommended action steps revealed most barriers fall into two categories: physical barriers to accessing healthy food (ex: lack of physical locations, or transportation options), and economic barriers to accessing healthy food (ex: affordability)
The staff at TNP and community partners have developed strategies to address both kinds of barriers to accessing healthy foods.
Since the study was completed, TNP and their Garden Resources of Warren (GROW) Program have been digging deeper and planting seeds to find innovative solutions that would bring more healthy foods into Warren neighborhoods and make sure they are high quality, and affordable.
Convening, collaborating, and connecting many of these efforts has fallen into the highly qualified, capable hands of Cassandra Clevenger, Community Resource Coordinator at TNP. With her vision and leadership, TNP used the Good Food Here frame
work to lay the groundwork for what has become the Community Store Initiative, which has been carried forward by the Trumbull County Healthy Food Access Coordinator, Christian Bennett-Mosley; implemented and expanded nutrition incentive programming at multiple farmers markets and grocery stores; curated and launched the GROW Technical Support Resource Portal for growers and gardeners; developed and facilitated a multi week virtual educational series for small scale fruit and vegetable growers the Ohio State University Extension and the Trumbull County Soil and Water Conservation District; and coordinates the Mahoning Valley Farmers Market Network.
All of these incredible feats are exactly that–incredible. And part of what is incredible about these initiatives is that they were accomplished not because of any one individual. They happened and have been successful because people worked together to accomplish shared goals, move forward with a common vision, and cultivate transformational–not transactional–relationships.
In her partner spotlight interview, Ms. Clevenger reflects on the many milestones that have been passed by on our journey towards becoming a healthier, more equitable Mahoning Valley. But, she also reminds us that our travels are not yet complete, our destination not yet reached. And the only way to keep going forward is to go together.