Our work as a community action agency involves supporting partner
agencies as well as developing initiatives in the key areas of agriculture, food
security, and economic development.
Food security is defined as the state of having access to a sufficient quantity of safe, affordable food. Food security is a concern for thousands of Butler County residents. Ten percent of the population or 18,350 individuals are estimated to be food insecure.
Our needs assessment told us that 56 percent of respondents identified the need for more affordable food options, and 49 percent of respondents identified the need for more healthy food options. Our focus groups told us that throughout the county, there is a need for more healthy food retailers, and in many communities food retail options are limited to dollar stores, gas stations, and small markets, all of which offer food at higher prices than conventional grocery stores.
Procuring locally-grown food not only provides health and environmental benefits, but economic ones as well, for families and local producers.
In response to Covid-19, Community Partnership and the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank have teamed up to perform monthly free food distributions provided to residents of Butler County. Residents take home between 30 and 50 pounds of fresh produce, meat, dairy, and other products monthly. The program serves between 300 to 400 families a month. Because families self-declare their eligibility, no income information is necessary to receive food.
On our recent community needs assessment, 51 percent
of respondents indicated that education on cooking, food preservation, and preparation was a key community need. Qualitative data gathering efforts at the Produce to People distribution, at our food pantry network, and at our focus groups told us that individuals and families need more information about preparing healthy meals. In partnership with Penn State Extension, a demonstration kitchen at the monthly Produce to People distribution seeks to empower families to try new produce varieties and prepare new recipes. The demonstration kitchen is staffed by a Penn State Extension nutrition education volunteer.
*Program is currently suspended due to COVID-19.
A food council is an organization comprised of community members from various food and agriculture industry sectors to facilitate partnerships, learning opportunities, and develop and offer policy recommendations to help improve the economic and social conditions for farming and access to local foods.
Agriculture is an important industry in Butler County and its surrounding counties, and there are almost 1,000 farms in the county with over 130,000 acres in cultivation. Ninety-four percent are family farms operated by an aging demographic; most farmers are middle aged or older. Eighty-percent of our region’s food is imported.
Originally developed by the Oregon Food Bank
and Oregon State Extension, Seeds to Supper is
a six-week beginning gardening course that gives beginning gardeners the skills they need to successfully grow food at home on a limited budget. In Butler, Seeds to Supper is a partnership between Community Partnership and Penn State Extension, and includes a relationship with Blackberry Meadows Farm. Seeds to Supper will serve ten low-income residents of the City of
Butler in 2020.
While this project is just in its feasibility study phase under its partner agency The Alliance for Nonprofit Resources, Community Partnership is exploring a long-term relationship with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary in Lawrence County, with the intent of preserving and developing the Villa Maria Farm. If this project moves into implementation, the Villa Maria Farm would expand its support of charitable food programs, increase its agricultural education programming, and offer innovation and entrepreneurship programming and infrastructure for food and farm-based businesses in Western Pennsylvania.
New and growing businesses represent the principal sources of job creation. A healthy and growing business community brings more opportunities for economic advancement for families and an increased quality of life. Communities with vibrant economic and social systems offer low income individuals and families greater opportunities to shape the future of their communities.
For a high-poverty community, the cultivation of a robust entrepreneurial culture is a key anti-poverty solution. High rates of entrepreneurship correspond to the largest declines in poverty, and lower rates of entrepreneurship correspond to increases in poverty. Data show that for every 1 percentage point increase in the rate of entrepreneurship in a state, there is a 2 percent decline in the poverty rate, and states with a larger share of entrepreneurs had bigger declines in poverty. While it is not a panacea, entrepreneurship also holds great promise for addressing many of the social breakdowns present in low-income communities. In many former Rust Belt communities once reliant on the steel industry for their prosperity, apathy, anger, and a loss of identity are very real conditions. Entrepreneurship development and training is an effective way to convey identity, a sense of belonging, and a measure of security, and that the intrinsic optimism required in the entrepreneurial journey is a potent antidote for anger and apathy. The Butler Innovation Hub will provide community-based entrepreneurial training and support, as well as access to a higher education professional certificate in entrepreneurship. Programming will focus on social enterprise development for low-to middle income women, but the Hub will be open to and serve the entire community.
CO.STARTERS at The Butler Innovation Lab is our flagship program. CO.STARTERS is a nine-week, cohort-based program that equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn ideas into action and turn a passion into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. CO.STARTERS provides an action-driven, collaborative process with a small and supportive group of like-minded people. Over nine weeks, you’ll identify your assumptions about why and how your businesses will work and then talk to customers in order to validate your ideas. This approach enables you to rapidly uncover flaws in your concept and find viable models more quickly. You’ll leave the program with a deeper understanding of how to create a sustainable business, articulate your model, and repeat the process with your next great idea.
This partnership between the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Butler County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Butler, and Community Partnership will work to focus private investment dollars into redevelopment projects in the City of Butler. The Strengthening Communities Partnership (SCP), a program of the Allegheny Conference, seeks to engage the region’s business community to help build capacity and drive revitalization in struggling communities throughout the region.The SCP focuses private investment through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (PA DCED) Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP), a tax credit program which provides an 80-percent tax credit to companies that make multi-year contributions to qualifying community development organizations.
Our subcontractors provide an array of services to the community, from transitional housing to family stabilization to legal assistance. Our subcontractors are a critical component of our work to improve the lives of individuals in poverty.