Blank Plate is a designed pilot program that aims to inspire Hunts Point teens through creative culinary experiences, transforming their relationship to food and fostering new relationships with their fellow residents. The goal of this project is to cultivate a foodcentric culture in an area that is currently challenged with issues of food justice.
What is the social issue the team is working to improve?
Seventy-five percent of the food we eat every day passes through a small neighborhood in the South Bronx called Hunts Point. Hunts Point is home to one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, serving food to 300 million people in the New York region. Ironically, juxtaposed against this massive $2 billion industry is congressionally one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. Moreover, the neighborhood is challenged with issues of food justice, where access to healthy food is difficult. Instead, the neighborhood is saturated with fast foods and bodegas offering cheap belly fixes for the low-income consumer. Not only do they not have access to healthy food, they are paying for this industry with their health: 60,000 semitrucks pass through on a weekly basis, and the population consequently suffers high rates of asthma as well as diabetes and obesity.
How did the team get started with Blank Plate?
The project was part of a larger research project taken on by Transdisciplinary Design students in spring 2012 focused on the relationships between the consumption, production, and distribution of food in Hunts Point, South Bronx. Our research led us to discover and partner with The Point Community Development Corporation as we fused together existing initiatives around a culinary expert, a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and a weekly community dinner called NoBeef Thursdays.
Blank Plate was awarded seed funding through Design Ignites Change. In January of 2012, our team began to plan an experimental culinary pilot program as a collaborative thesis project. Our six-week pilot was accepted by the community as a great success, as 125 people came to the first ever Blank Plate dinner event in support of the program.