ECDI Builds an Oasis in a Food Desert

As Central Ohio happily welcomes spring weather, ECDI is venturing into a new form of community investment. With funding from The Columbus Foundation, ECDI will use the 2019 growing season as an opportunity to host a community garden on its own campus. For the people of the Devon Triangle neighborhood, where ECDI’s Columbus office is located, and for the community of individuals employed by ECDI’s Food Fort businesses, the garden will be a chance to learn about urban gardening while also rewarding them with the first pick of produce as the vegetables are harvested.

The Devon Triangle neighborhood is a USDA-designated food desert—an area void of grocery stores—where more than 35% of families bring home an income below the federal poverty line. Transportation barriers leave many residents with just what they can get at the corner stores: highly processed, unhealthy foods. Food Fort employees, who make the trek in to the Food Fort from all different parts of the city to work on a daily basis, also face barriers to nutrition, including time constraints and low income.

“We want to break down the barriers that limit lower income people,” says Terry Traster, Food Fort and Facilities Manager. “This garden is a tremendous opportunity to provide our neighborhood and our Food Fort employees with healthy foods and useful life skills.”

Photo provided by ECDI

Lisa Gutierrez, owner of Food Fort business Dos Hermanos, also shares her excitement about the opportunity for her employees.  

“The Dos Hermanos team is thrilled to be a part of this community garden,” Gutierrez says. “We are all looking forward to growing and sharing fresh vegetables with each other and with the community.”

Gardening is a form of self-care that works on many different levels. Beyond the obvious nutritional benefit, it is a great excuse to get outside and exercise. Garden upkeep – weeding, trimming, raking – can burn off about 300 calories an hour. Gardening can be beneficial for those who struggle with mental health and general stress and anxiety. Community gardens are also a great way to strengthen neighborhoods because they deepen the bonds between community members as they work together.

ECDI is looking forward to getting to know its neighbors better. Not everyone in the neighborhood has a reason to interact with ECDI, but the garden has the potential to be inclusive of the community as a whole.

“I’m really excited to work in the garden this summer,” says Louisa Dallet, ECDI Development Coordinator. “It will it be a fun way to get outside during the work day and an even better opportunity for our staff to get to know the residents of Devon Triangle… it’s the first step to building a stronger community!”

Photo provided by ECDI

Once garden yields become substantial, ECDI will host a farm stand every Friday on the front lawn of the office on Old Leonard Avenue. Both Devon Triangle residents and Food Fort employees will be able to come to the stand and pick up free produce, regardless of if they volunteered in the garden or not. This will be a great way to generate interest in gardening and nutrition, as well as nourish the community with fresh food. Any produce left over will be donated to local food pantries.

For more information about how you can get involved as well as details about future garden workdays, please contact John Newman at 614-732-0988 or jnewman@ecdi.org.

This mutli-part sponsored series highlighting ECDI’s work in Columbus is presented with paid support by ECDI.

Since 2004, ECDI has assisted Ohio’s entrepreneurs through its one-stop shop business services model, suited to meet the needs of all entrepreneurs, regardless of what business stage they’re in. From providing capital to entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses, to providing focused, business-specific educational opportunities to enhance entrepreneurial skill sets, ECDI works with their clients to meet their unique needs. Whether assisting a new client with a business concept or an accomplished entrepreneur opening a fifth location, ECDI’s “never say no” approach has allowed over twelve thousand entrepreneurs to take advantage of the services it provides. Visit ecdi.org today to learn more.

Photo provided by ECDI