Apples & Wages, an undergraduate urban planning studio project, presents a program to increase food security and employment in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco with a job-training program that offers skill development and employment experience in food preparation and distribution. Taught by Andrea Gaffney and Kimberly Suczynski Smith, the students Dylan Crary, Heather Do, Rebecca Hui, Sandra Lee, and Christina Tanouye come from a wide range of disciplines including urban studies, business, architecture, and political economy.
The Story from the Students
The final studio presentation of “Apples & Wages” came a long way from the scattering of ideas that developed at the beginning of spring semester. For the final studio project, our team tackled the broad assignment of creating an innovative economic development proposal for the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. The assignment asked us to propose a long-term plan and a short-term, immediate action in which to test our long-range plan.
Like many good planners, we started our project with extensive background research and numerous site visits. We scanned the study area for possible economic development opportunities that were not directly addressed in the planning studies that we had researched. The corner stores and street culture of the Tenderloin caught our attention as a significant economy, about which we wanted to learn more.
We recorded existing land uses in great detail, noting the businesses and organizations present in the neighborhood. We noticed a disparity in the pricing of fresh food at the corner stores, so we created a map and pricing index to reflect the community’s access to local sources of fresh food. We documented activities on the street and talked with long-time Tenderloin residents to better understand the needs and issues in the neighborhood. From census and planning research, we learned about the high unemployment rate within the working age population of the Tenderloin community. As part of our land use research, we noted Single Resident Occupancy Hotels (SRO’s) as the predominant housing type; there are no kitchens in SROs.
The site visits allowed us to think on our feet and helped us arrive at our idea to propose a job-training program that could also provide access to fresh, healthy food. The idea is surprisingly simple: we propose the creation of a central kitchen where fresh produce could be prepared into healthy meals through the jobs training program, and then sent throughout the Tenderloin on mobile food carts.
Throughout the development of our project, we looked at a variety of precedents and case studies to provide the proof-of-concept for our proposal. We found some excellent examples of programs and organizations at work in the Bay Area and California, from which we developed a kit of parts for our proposal. We also identified a series of funding opportunities and local organizations that might be interested in further developing our idea.
After the final studio presentation, our instructors encouraged us to present “Apples & Wages” to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and through this exposure, we took advantage of submitting our idea to San Francisco’s Online Ideas Competition for Food Security in the Tenderloin over the summer. Talk about good timing! The jury loved our proposal and we won an internship at the Hub, a social venture incubator space, where we will continue developing our project to turn “Apples & Wages” into a real program for the Tenderloin. Thinking back on all those late nights spent at Wurster Hall, we are tremendously excited to see how all our hard work will truly give back to the community.