As a community activist in West Baltimore, where she grew up, Tiffany Welch has worked to expand access to jobs, education and healthy foods.
As healthy food access coordinator for No Boundaries Coalition, Welch is trying to make it easier for residents, especially the poor and the elderly, to shop for fresh food.
"There is a lack of supermarkets in that area," said Welch, whose organization, a resident advocacy group, serves Sandtown-Winchester, Upton, Madison Park, Harlem Park, Reservoir Hill, Bolton Hill and Druid Heights. "It is a really dense food desert."
A project to offer fresh produce for sale, which started last September with "pop-up" food stalls at Avenue Market, will get a boost over the next three years thanks to a $200,000 grant from the T. Rowe Price Foundation, part of a $1.3 million, three-year pledge for West Baltimore.
No Boundaries and partner Strength to Love Farm II aim to grow thousands of pounds of kale, collard greens, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, strawberries and other in-demand produce at about 16 "hoop houses," vacant lots converted to garden plots, then sell the food six days a week at Avenue, a city public market on Pennsylvania Avenue. Strength to Love now farms eight lots along Monroe Street.
There's no question about the demand, Welch said. During a half-dozen pop-up events last fall, the group sold more than 7,000 pounds of produce. The effort attracted the attention of Whole Foods' nonprofit organization, which launched a yearlong project with No Boundaries to run the stand on Saturdays. During that time, No Boundaries hopes to collect data to help it launch the larger project with T. Rowe's aid.
Besides stocking the market stall, Welch said the groups want to supply produce to small corner markets and offer career training and jobs for neighborhood residents.
For many of those residents, healthful food is hard to come by, especially for those without cars. Many are forced to travel more than a mile to get to the Shoppers supermarket at Mondawmin Mall or the more limited Save-A-Lot on Pennsylvania Avenue near Martin Luther King Boulevard. A Murray's store at The Avenue market, which sold meat, recently closed.
"Taking the bus is hard when you're carrying groceries," Welch said.
Welch, who grew up in Easterwood and attended high school at Bryn Mawr School, returned to Baltimore after attending the University of Michigan. Armed with a master's degree in social work from the University of Maryland, she worked as director of family services for Head Start in Edmondson Village until 2011.
She then designed community projects as a freelance project consultant for groups such as the city's Recreation and Parks Department, Youth Advocates Program Inc., The Women's Civic League and Mondawmin Improvement Neighborhood Association. She co-founded #SaveADopeBoy, a youth organization that helps inner-city boys ages 14 to 19 earn money by helping people in the neighborhood and qualify for jobs at community businesses.
Welch said she expects the three-year produce project to have an impact that goes well beyond healthier eating.
"I think it's going to be a good model for workforce development," she said. "It also creates a new environment in the public market. People will become more comfortable with shopping in the area. … We don't have poultry and meat and seafood. I'm hoping this will attract those kinds of vendors. … The long-term goal is to attract a supermarket."
Title: Food access planner, No Boundaries Coalition
Previous job: Nonprofit program development
Education: B.A., University of Michigan; Master's of Social Work, University of Maryland
Residence: Baltimore City
Birthplace: Baltimore City
Family: Single, no children
Hobbies/interests: Member of Democratic State Central Committee, 40th District; co-founder, #SaveADopeBoy; enjoying city life and supporting the local music scene, local restaurants and retailers