Preparing the field: Urban Oasis

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Urban Oasis closes the year with a celebration of the harvest and plans for new growth.

In June 2014, Urban Oasis officially launched. The winning idea in The St. Paul Foundation’s 2013 $1 Million Forever St. Paul Challenge, Urban Oasis is now an initiative of The Lower Phalen Creek Project.

“As we approach the end of the year, we’re taking stock of where we’ve been and where we’re going,” says Tracy Sides, executive director and founder of Urban Oasis. “Since June, we’ve worked with more than 40 community organizations to serve the people of the East Side. And next year, we’ve got a lot of exciting ways people can discover the magic of food.”

Urban Oasis has assembled staff and a nine-member community advisory panel to help shape the organization’s five-year plan. The group has begun building the trellis that will hold Urban Oasis for years to come.

“Many of our staff and community advisory panel members live and work on the East Side. We’ve got similar values around the power of food. We’re committed to cultivating a healthy, resilient, and prosperous community by strengthening the local food system and increasing access and enjoyment of sustainably-grown, affordable, whole food,” Sides said.

Here are a few of the things Urban Oasis has accomplished this year:

  • Held the first annual Urban Oasis Food Fest in August, drawing nearly 1,000 people from the neighborhood and beyond.
  • Developed the Urban Oasis Healthy Meal-Making program, which will launch a free pilot class to East Side residents in January to teach food skills for use at home or in the job market.
  • Created menus and plans for catering and food product development programs that will launch in March, focusing on purchasing from underserved local farmers.
  • Published a monthly newsletter featuring articles related to Urban Oasis programs, food-system issues, and human-interest stories from East Side community members and business owners.
  • Established an office in the East Side Enterprise Center, a home that enables collaboration with area organizations committed to the economic development of the East Side.
  • Partnered with Latino Economic Development Center to reopen an incubator kitchen on the bluff in 2015, for food entrepreneurs, job training, community classes, and workshops.

As Sides looks ahead to next year, she’s excited about the opportunities Urban Oasis is creating. “I believe that food can change the world. Food is a part of every celebration, every milestone, and every big moment of our lives. It’s the magic that creates happy people and healthy neighborhoods.”

To sign up for their newsletter or get involved in any Urban Oasis programs, visit www.urbanoasismn.org.