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Using a little crunch to change the narrative of East Cleveland

Food foraging
Posted at 3:58 PM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 18:43:00-04

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — Members of the community are writing a new chapter in East Cleveland by changing the narrative of their city by adding a little crunch and a lot of hard work.

Ismail Samad is one of the East Cleveland residents leading the charge, as e found himself exhausted with everyone's focus on the bad.

"There's always negative news coming out about East Cleveland. We never talk about anything positive," said Samad.

Samad wanted to flip the script.

"We never talk about anything positive," said Samad.

The founder of Loiter East Cleveland, a non-profit that invites and encourages residents to commune, interact, and appreciate their community partnered with Food Depot to Health to purchase East Cleveland-based Wake Robin Foods.

"It specializes in sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles," said Samad.

The fermented products are available in more than 50 stores across Ohio and Illinois.

"We're looking to scale it up and provide economic opportunity for local growers within East Cleveland and Cuyahoga County," said Samad.

Samad's mission with the acquisition is to build a food system of the future.

"That is communal, that's inclusive, that's driven by equity, opportunity, sound investments that provide reparative opportunities for habitually excluded folks," said Samad.

With the growth of the business, the goal is to create a black-owned supply chain.

"The more pieces that we have in our control within our communities the more say we have in the outcome," said Samad.

That means owning the land where the food comes from, the plant where it's processed and the retail where it's sold.

"This is a great opportunity to share our talents and invite others to join in with us as we look to disrupt a very racially charged reality in Northeast Ohio," said Samad.

Part of the expansion includes adding new life to a long-abandoned car lot along Euclid Avenue.

"This is one of those opportunities that takes us to the next level," said Veronica Walton, Food Depot to Health.

This fall a farmer's market will take over part of the space, and plans are in the works for a food truck park.

"When I was growing up in the 70s, we had butcher shops, we had bakeries, we had hardware stores and everything left," said Jamal Collins, East Cleveland resident.

Collins is excited to see positive changes coming to his neighborhood.

"I feel like I'm more connected to the place that where I'm from," said Collins.