For those of you who are following our journey, it’s been a whirlwind week for First Light Project. Tuesday night culminated a week of preparation for competition between five finalists for the Inaugural Full City Challenge sponsored by The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Billy Penn. Unfortunately, our project was not chosen for the prize, but we walked away with an experience that is much more valuable to us. The intensive idea accelerator workshop, the connections and introductions, the feedback from advisers, and all our new friends was a prize in and of itself. Congratulations to the winners; Hospitality Together, to my personal favorite; The Rebel Market, to Philly Food Rescue and CWC Wellness. These were all great ideas backed by great teams and we are honored to be in such good company. We also raised over $9,000 towards building a small-scale pilot which we will operate while we complete the fundraising and construction of our first farm. It’s not too late to contribute! HERE
In their own way all the teams are tackling the wicked problems of lack of jobs, education, healthcare, addiction, safety, and food insecurity. These problems are inextricably tied to each other and collectively manifest themselves as pervasive inter-generational poverty. Philadelphia has a 26% poverty rate, the highest of all major American cities. 40% of Philadelphians living in poverty live in deep poverty. A City with such strong traditions and storied history should not also where this mantle, but we do, and many of us are pursuing innovative solutions to do something about it.
There is no simple solution. One is naive to think there is, although we easily default to that mindset. Poverty is a complex and nuanced challenge that requires systemic change and integrated solutions. Each of us soldiers on tackling our piece of the puzzle, but when we are smart, we work together towards a shared vision and common civic good.
This is what makes First Light Project’s vertical farm project so exciting. We are tackling a piece of the puzzle as part of a larger dedicated community of professionals and volunteers committed to ending generational poverty in this city we love. Victory V Farms will not end food insecurity or eradicate poverty. What it will do though is provide equitable opportunity for residents in underserved neighborhoods to learn a skill, grow food for their neighbors, eat more nutritiously, and support their family with a living wage job. Growing food in urban neighborhoods is just one small part of the solution, but one that can catalyze so much good.
So bring on your wicked problems Philadelphia! Because of the Full City Challenge we now know 50 more people willing to stand shoulder to shoulder to fight for a better future. And they each know 50 more who are also tackling the challenges of poverty in this community. We do it in the way we know how, with all the tools, skills and ingenuity we can bring to bear. If you give citizens the tools they need to succeed, they will create a better life for themselves and their family. The inequity of the past can no longer be an excuse for inaction in the present. We have found our path forward. We invite you to journey with us or find a path in your community that leads towards a better life for everyone.