Naomi Thompkins: Community Education and Collaboration

Buy Better Foods Store Front, Brooklyn, NY
Buy Better Foods Pantry Section

This month I wanted to look at different community organizations that are working to alleviate food insecurity in Brooklyn, New York. Cooperatives have been established all over the world throughout history and there are over a billion cooperatives today. Marginalized communities have always organized as a community to meet needs that are not generally accessible to them. Throughout history, the Black community has pooled their resources to provide aid within their community. Since the late 1800’s, there has been a strong network of Black mutual aid societies in New York City. I visited Buy Better Foods, a Black woman owned organic specialty market in Bed Stuy.  Buy Better Foods carries a variety of affordable, local, and sustainable foods. They also run instructional workshops about health and wellness and host pop-ups where the local community can connect with Black owned businesses in the area. Similar to the goals of the Central Brooklyn Food Co-op, Buy Better Foods is not just a grocery store but also a community space for learning and collaboration. 

I also visited a few community gardens in Central Brooklyn, one being the Hattie Carthan Community Garden near Herbert Von King Park. The garden’s goal is to increase access to locally grown fresh foods and inter-generational agricultural education. The Hattie Carthan Garden celebrates 10 years this year and hosts a variety of community programs such as a community farmers market, a community medicine program, a youth corps, and educational events. A common theme in these collaborative organizations is that they don’t have one function. Each community has a variety of needs and a variety of people with different talents and resources. Successful organizations thrive on the diversity in their community and collaborate to cater to everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Sharing knowledge and skills is always an integral part of community development. Central Brooklyn Food Co-op, Buy Better Foods, and the Hattie Carthan Community Garden all recognize the importance of incorporating education into community collaboration.

Hattie Carthan Community Garden, Brooklyn, NY
Tomato Bed in Hattie Carthan Community Garden