Milwaukee a finalist in Bloomberg challenge

By Mary Louise Schumacher of the Journal Sentinel

Nov. 5, 2012 8:00 a.m.


Milwaukee is one of 20 cities named a finalist in “The Mayor’s Challenge,” a national competition organized by New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg to generate innovative solutions to the problems facing American cities.

More than 300 cities entered the competition, which comes with a $5 million prize and $1 million each for four runners up.

Milwaukee’s proposal, submitted by Mayor Tom Barrett and called “Home Gr/Own,” will transform foreclosed properties into links in a new supply chain for nutritious food. Homes and lots will be used for urban farms, community kitchens and distribution centers.

The project will be a combination of old-fashioned homesteading, offering participating entrepreneurs an opportunity to own the properties, and the use of databases and new technologies to link individual projects into a larger food distribution system.

"Home Gr/Own" will attempt to build on the success of urban agriculture programs already in existence in Milwaukee while creating economic development in distressed neighborhoods and making nutritious and locally sourced foods more available citywide, Barrett argues.

“Imagine empty lots that are ecosystems of flowers, bees, beauty and food, a place where the food people eat feeds their mind body and soul” said Gretchen Mead, of the Victory Garden Initiative, whose idea won the Milwaukee-based competition for the Bloomberg competition and was the nucleus for “Home Gr/own.”

“As I look around the city and see so much emptiness, it is is important that we reclaim the empty spots of the city and literally plant new life,” said Venice Williams, of Alice’s Garden, in the video created by the city and submitted with the Bloomberg application.

As much as 69% of Milwaukeeans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, according to the city’s Bloomberg proposal.

The finalist cities have been invited to send teams to New York City for an intensive two-day session to share and strengthen their ideas. The finalists will then submit refined proposals early in 2013. The five winners will be revealed sometime in the second quarter of 2013.

The team representing Milwaukee will include Matt Howard, environmental sustainability director for the City of Milwaukee, Sharon Adams, director of program for Walnut Way Conservation Corp., Sharon Robinson, director of administration for the city, and Maria Prioletta, redevelopment and special projects manager for the city’s Department of City Development.

Barrett and his team will hold a press conference at Walnut Way, 2240 N.h 17th St., today at 3 p.m. The celebration will include a fresh juice toast to the project, which Barrett said will be acted upon whether Milwaukee wins the grand prize or not.

"The Mayor's Challenge" is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bloomberg's family foundation. See a full list of the 20 finalists here.   Here is a video that Barrett's team submitted with the Bloomberg application. It was produced by Tim McCollow, directed by Arthur Ircink and with cinematography by Ircink, Chris Thompson, Frankie Latina and Amanda Griffin.



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