On March 8, our city’s most creative thinkers are gathering together to present and discuss ideas for making our city a better place. The event is part of GOOD Magazine’s Ideas for Cities series, in which GOOD chooses a city (we are the second of five mid-sized cities featured this year), identifies the unique issues that city faces, and challenges the city’s creatives to come up with imaginative plans to address those issues. Seven teams were chosen to represent our fine city, each assigned a challenge and a handful of urban leaders in related fields. You can visit the Ideas for Cities blog to read up on who’s on each team and what they’re working on.
But, if you’re like us, you’d rather hear about it straight from the teams themselves! So, over the next few weeks, we’re checking in with each of the teams to get to know them a little better and get a sneak peek at how they’re tackling their challenges. Come out to CAM on March 8 to watch them present their ideas, and discuss with the city’s leaders and influentials the next steps to turn the ideas into action.
This week, let’s start by meeting the team STL Provocateur, charged with increasing the accessibility of healthy, locally grown food in St. Louis.
Team Members: Rhonda Smythe, Jeanette Reynolds, Stephanie Co, Andrew Flachs, Anne McCullough, Nat Zorach
Urban Leaders: Craig Heller, Food Works; Frank Finnegan, St. Louis Area Foodbank; Mike Sorth, Gateway Greening; Eric Schneider, RCGA
Why did you come together as a group? How do you know each other?
The STL Provocateur members actively do our part to create a vibrant city and community through everyday actions and volunteer work. Several of us met through Mayor Slay’s Vanguard Cabinet, an initiative focused on keeping creative young professionals in the region through community involvement. It’s working – many of us transient professionals stayed because of 1) the friendships formed through this group and 2) the power to positively influence our city! The rest of the group met through our collective love of food and cycling. We strengthened our relationships through shared volunteer hours and participation on events like the STL World Naked Bike Ride, Open Streets, and STL Harvest Fest. And let’s be honest here – Steph Co knows everyone. Luckily, it’s her mission to bring us all together.
What are your strengths as a creative team?
The STL Provocateur team brings a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds to the table. Our strengths lie in community engagement, development and organizing. We all have a deep passion for social justice that ties us together, along with a firm commitment to bettering the place we’re in. We create events that bring diverse swaths of people together, from cyclists to foodies to barterers to exhibitionists. We lead with fun, bringing education and behavior change along in bite size pieces.
How did you hear about the GOOD Ideas for Cities project? What attracted you to be a part of it?
Social media, of course! (If you don’t already follow @GOOD, please do so immediately.) The GOOD Ideas for Cities project was a natural fit for our group as GOOD’s tagline is “For people who give a damn.” Several of us already have projects in the works related to increasing food capacity and accessibility in St. Louis, so the opportunity to create a more formal platform was welcome. Plus activists can never say no to a good challenge!
Describe the challenge you were assigned to. What’s your plan of attack in tackling it?
STL Provocateur is tasked with creating a hub for urban agriculture and a local food distribution system. This is an incredibly broad challenge, with any number of different avenues to provide solutions. Our first meeting was spent primarily brainstorming the scope of what we thought possible. It will be a multi-tiered strategy, addressing varying levels of capacity from single neighborhoods to the region as a whole.
Which urban leaders are you working with? Tell us about them.
The urban leaders for the food challenge are Craig Heller of Food Works, Frank Finnegan of the St. Louis Area Food Bank, Mike Sorth of Gateway Greening, and Eric Schneider of RCGA. The four of them encompass very different skill sets and contributions to the local food systems. They each have a focused area of interest that will provide STL Provocateur with a diverse set of knowledge and resources.