Get involved with the Northside Planning Council in 2017

By Abha Thakkar
Northside Planning Counci
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Are you looking for a way to connect to your neighborhood, to create a stronger sense of home and community for you and your family?  Do you see a problem that needs to be addressed but don’t know where to start? If so, get involved with the Northside Planning Council.

The Northside Planning Council is a nonprofit community development corporation that publishes the Northside News; owns and operates the FEED Kitchens business incubator serving over 80 startup food businesses; runs the FEED Bakery Training program and associated bakery business; and operates Healthy Food For All, the county’s only dedicated food recovery program that rescued and delivered 85,000 pounds of fresh food to food pantries last year that otherwise would have gone into landfills. On top of all that, we work with neighborhood leaders, community groups and neighborhood associations to address pressing needs as they arise.

We are entering our 24th year of serving the Northside, and we have lots of exciting and innovative community organizing, economic development and social enterprise projects going.  Moreover, we want to hear from you and support your ideas for improving the quality of life on the Northside.

Our offices are at FEED Kitchens at 1219 N. Sherman Ave., and we work hard to foster a friendly, fun yet focused environment, a place where we’re all invested in one another and in our community. You’ll enjoy your time with us and make an impact on your neighborhood all at the same time.

Check out this list of volunteer needs and see where you can get involved to help make the Northside a better place for all.

If you’re interested in these or other roles, please write to us at volunteer@northsideplanningcouncil.org.

Community Supper Volunteers
Four times a year, NPC and FEED Kitchens partner with the Warner Park Community Recreation Center, Northside Farmers Market, Willy Street Co-op and Boomerangs Resale Store to host a free community dinner at WPCRC for all Northsiders. We always need help with cooking, setup, serving and cleanup, and it’s a fun opportunity to meet a diverse array of neighbors and enjoy some locally grown and prepared food. Come join us for a few hours and help build community.

You can also volunteer to be on the organizing team for the suppers to help come up with new ideas for menus, entertainment, program and locations. We’re open to trying new ideas.

Community Capacity-Building Team Members
The next issue of the Northside News will have much more detail about this team’s work, but its overarching purpose will be to build relationships between diverse, Northside residents and neighborhoods with the goal of fostering equity and organizing collective action. This group is poised to take on a variety of initiatives in 2017, all to be designed and shaped by Northsiders. This is the group you want to join if you have a community-building idea or have identified a specific challenge you’d like to help address.

FEED Bakery Cookie Packers
The FEED Bakery is a social enterprise that supports the FEED Bakery Training Program by generating revenue to operate the program and giving students a chance to learn about operating a real-world bakery business. Students contribute to the production process, and the bakery is generally able to meet demand between the labor provided by its current class and its paid graduates. However, when a significant holiday comes around -— such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, etc. — the Bakery is inundated with orders. Come help pack cookies and other products to fill orders during these peak periods and know that you’re supporting opportunities for students who are looking for a new start in life.

Healthy Food For All Recovered Food Processors and Distributors
Healthy Food For All (HFFA) collects fresh produce from farms and prepared food from Epic Systems and American Family cafeterias that would otherwise go to waste and repackages it at FEED Kitchens before distributing it to food pantries. Donated food often arrives in bulk containers or fresh from the field. We clean and package it in user-friendly portions. Distribution involves contacting recipients to find out when they can recieve food, what they can use, and how they’d like it packaged.

HFFA Processing Food for Funds
HFFA will launch its own social enterprise in 2017 to raise money to support its food recovery operations and simultaneously help support the local food system. Volunteers will help with simple processing of produce for farmers — topping and freezing strawberries, for example. Farmers will pay HFFA a fee for this service, as this extends their harvest season by creating value-added products they can sell year-round. This gets more locally grown food into the market, enhances income for farmers and reduces waste while also supporting HFFA operations.

FEED Tour Guides
Would you like to help others learn more about the FEED Kitchens? We’ll provide you with a script, give you training and practice, and then you can sign up for specific slots to be available for FEED tours. The most important trait we’re looking is enthusiasm for the FEED Kitchens. The time commitment can be anywhere from 1‒3 hours per week, depending on the week and your availability.

FEED Business Coaches
Did you start your own successful business? Would you like to translate your experiences to helping others do the same? The new business owners at FEED are often on the lookout for mentors. Let us know if you’d like to be paired with someone just starting up. There may be opportunities in 2017 to earn a small stipend for your time as a business coach with us. Get in touch to learn more.

FEED Landscaping and Gardening
Would you like to help maintain the gardens around FEED? We have an edible landscape with an herb garden and opportunities for creativity. Please bring your ideas and your desire to help us keep the premises beautiful and functional for the many people who use and see FEED.

FEED Food Business Writers
Do you love to write and do you love food? As part of our business incubation services at FEED, we’d like to write promotional pieces for the food businesses that work there. Your role would be to interview and research our businesses (perhaps taste test samples?) and write articles of a few different lengths that could be used in different ways (the Northside News, our online business directory, marketing materials, press releases, etc.). You could take on as many FEED businesses as you have time for.

Northside News Digital Archivists
We’d like to get all 22 years of the Northside News on our new website, http://northsidenews.org — fully searchable, fully tagged and categorized for easy access. This requires transferring text and photos to WordPress. We’ll train you on each step, but you will need access to a computer. This is fairly detail-oriented work, particularly in regards to applying the correct tags and categories to make the articles easily searchable.

Northside News Business Delivery
The Northside News gets mailed directly to 11,000 homes, and we hand-deliver another 2,000 copies to about 40 locations on the Northside. We’d love to have two volunteers to split the route. Delivery only takes place once every two months and generally takes about two hours. A station wagon or SUV is ideal, and it’s helpful if you’re able to meet us mid-day on the Tuesday when the paper is dropped off.

Northside News Writers
Have you always wanted to have your writing published? Come join us as a volunteer writer for the Northside News. As a community newspaper, we value enthusiastic new writers as well as more experienced journalists. Our goal is to have the diverse voices of our community represented. Take assignments or come up with your own story ideas. Curiosity and a passion for the Northside are more important than writing experience. We will provide training, support and editing for anyone who would like to learn this new skill.