To the Residents of Normandy and Wellston: A Letter from the 2020 Community Design Apprentices

Creative Reaction Lab
Equal Space
Published in
3 min readNov 5, 2020

--

The six apprentices from the 2020 Community Design Apprenticeship Program (CDAP) cohort wrote a letter during their October 9–12 Graduation Session to the community members of Wellston and Normandy in the St. Louis Promise Zone.

To the residents of Normandy, MO and Wellston, MO:

Back in February 2020, Creative Reaction Lab chose six Black young leaders from various parts of St. Louis to address the topic of limited healthy food access in the Normandy and Wellston communities under the Community Design Apprenticeship Program (CDAP).

Our cohort spent the past nine months engaging with you — the community members — to learn about what barriers and opportunities existed to improve access to healthy food in Normandy and Wellston. We canvassed your neighborhoods, stores, and other resources, learned about the unwillingness to invest in typically Black neighborhoods, and implement prototypes in various locations in the Normandy and Wellston areas. Engaging with you led us to receive feedback on recipe and design ideas, history of grocery stores in the area, what interventions you would like to see within your own neighborhoods, how many resident access various food sources, how people transport themselves to obtain food and your opinions on the quality of food that is readily available to you.

Our cohort learned about the framework of Equity-Centered Community Design, which is how community stakeholders work together to formulate approaches to community issues with equity and community voices centered. We challenged existing definitions of food deserts, healthy food, liberation and food justice. We also heard from food justice leaders like Quinton Ward (St. Louis Metro Market), Jeremy Goss (Link Market) and Tosha Phonix, food justice organizer with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. While all of them pushed us, Tosha challenged our foundation by informing us that “It’s not food deserts because deserts are a natural process. These are food apartheids. These were designed and designated to be of a certain type of area and to impact certain people.”

With all of your thoughts, wants, and feedback in mind, we designed the Blessed and Highly Flavored Food Boxes. On October 5, 2020, we presented our Blessed and Highly Flavored Food Boxes to Normandy residents at the Beverly Hills Supermarket. Within four hours, all 23 of our original prototype food boxes were dispersed.

The 2020 Community Design Apprenticeship Program cohort would like to offer a sincere thank you to everyone who provided feedback of any kind, for allowing us into your communities and for working with us throughout this entire process. We could not have done this work without your hospitality, insight and partnership.

We invite you to learn more about the Community Design Apprenticeship Program and future projects at https://www.creativereactionlab.com/cdap.

With love,

Deja Brown, Ashley Coleman, Reina Stovall, Hannah Price, Robert Beckles and Kristin Brown

The Community Design Apprenticeship Program (CDAP) expresses gratitude to the Missouri Foundation for Health, Herman Miller Cares, the St. Louis Promise Zone, the Deaconess Foundation, and the Roddenberry Foundation for making this program possible.

--

--

Creative Reaction Lab
Equal Space

At Creative Reaction Lab, we believe that Black and Latinx youth are integral to advancing racial equity and developing interventions for their communities.