Growing Community Projects Through Collaboration

Individual thoughts stem from personal perspective, which yields a singular, limiting point of view; however, a diversity of thought and background, through a collaboration with others, creates a richer viewpoint. Before our 8 80 Cities Studio workshop, I approached my initiative, Pop Up Produce, with a rosy-hue shade, assuming I had all the answers and solutions for success.

My experience at the Emerging City Champions Studio taught me that a bold vision cannot be examined under one singular shade; for every new person I discussed my project with, I was able to add another layer of compassion and concern, eventually creating a full spectrum, rainbow range of communal color.

Prior to the Studio, Pop Up Produce was merely a toolkit; it was an instrument to reach out to people, individually, and provide them the opportunity and knowledge to grow their food. The main goal: empower families and individuals to grow their own food while educating them on the benefits of fresh produce. This is done through a “Fresh Start” kit—an at home, interactive, DIY experience—consisting of seed, soil, a visual “how to” brochure and other various supplies. The aim is for every kit purchased, a kit will be donated to someone living in a food desert district. However, during the Studio, aspects of my initiative morphed and changed: Pop Up Produce transitioned from solely a seed starter consumer concept, into a vision and program deep rooted in community ties and partnerships. The project was planted with much richer soil, using community as the foundation, and leveraging the growing of food experience to bring individuals together.


The passion, the vigor and the excitement from this close collaboration with my fellow Champs, 8 80 Cities and  Knight  Foundation family has traveled with me back to my city of Charlotte, as I’m now proactively progressing my grant  project, using the momentum established at the Studio to propel my initiative, Pop Up Produce, forward.

Today, Pop Up Produce is working with sponsors and partnerships to create a cohesive collaboration: providing more  kits to families and individuals in food desert districts, providing kits to children attending Title 1 Urban schools, and  providing education / knowledge sharing workshops to all kit owners to stand by them, inspire them, and empower them  to keep growing their own food. Through synergy in shared values and resources, Pop Up Produce has become a true community project.


This entry was written by Amanda Zullo. Amanda was selected among 20 young urbanists to participate in the Emerging City Champions fellowship program. She and her peers each receive $5,000 to implement one project that will enhance civic engagement, public space, and mobility in their city in one year. The program is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and coordinated by 8 80 Cities.

Amanda wrote this entry shortly after attending the Emerging City Champions Studio, a four-day workshop that takes place in Toronto.

Amanda Zullo is a designer, community engager and food enthusiast. She has a passion for health and wellness, sustainable living and fresh food. Amanda holds a master’s degree in urban design from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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