Tractor driving in a field

Growing Social Change in South Phoenix
at Spaces of Opportunity

Growing Social Change in South Phoenix at Spaces of Opportunity

Nonprofit collaborations at the Spaces of Opportunity urban farm are paving the way for economic development in South Phoenix.

On a 19-acre urban farm in South Phoenix, change is being made. It can be seen in the students learning STEM lessons or heard in the languages of different cultures. It can be felt among farmers making their living from the land or tasted in a bite of a sweet ear of corn. The food, education, and economic programs that have appeared here were just a dream, years ago, but a community vision brought them to life. This place is Spaces of Opportunity.

Strawberry Butterfly

Community Wellness & Empowerment

Spaces is made up of various nonprofits sharing in the mission of bringing greater health to South Phoenix. Recognizing the impact Promotoras or “health promoters” have in the Spanish-speaking community, more than 130 individuals have been trained in basic public health roles. “Spaces of Opportunity provides a real-life laboratory, where community members learn and teach all of the social determinants of health” said Executive Director, Emma Viera of Unlimited Potential. “We have the farmers market with fresh, organic produce right next to where someone is getting their blood pressure taken and learning about diabetes. It helps people see how it all fits together.”

Child and adult gardening

Nutrition Education & Nutrition Access for Children

As the pandemic was causing job loss and food access challenges last fall, Spaces’ stepped in to provide emergency relief. Through the Fresh Connections and Feed Phoenix programs*, 30,000 pounds of produce was harvested and distributed to roughly 18,000 food-insecure children. TigerMountain Foundation, a Spaces founding partner, provided an additional 13,500 pounds of produce to nearby food pantries. In an area where 90% of students qualify for the free or reduced-price meal program at school, such distribution programs can have remarkable impact on their current and long-term health.

Social and Economic Mobility

Amidst the groups of farmers at Spaces, you’ll also find youth and mentors maintaining the site. Together, they’re nurturing the land and their own personal growth to create social and economic mobility. “We’re educating young people about personal strategies and community building skills to help them rise above poverty,” explains TigerMountain Foundation Founder, Darren Chapman.

A Growing Farmers Market

On a weekly basis from October through May, Spaces of Opportunity hosts a farmers market, selling fresh produce, handmade goods, and tasty meals from the rotating food trucks on-site. Hungry customers can enjoy the Double Up Food Bucks program and receive a $1 credit for Arizona-grown fruits or vegetables when they spend $1 through their SNAP/EBT card. Complete with live music, art exhibits and dance performances, the farmers market is fun for the whole family.

Student Programs

In addition to its community work, Spaces also partners with the local Roosevelt School District. Students from V.H. Lassen Elementary School, located across the street, utilize Spaces for their school gardening curriculum, learning science and math lessons through hands-on education. For kids wanting even more, V.H. Lassen hosts the Healthy Roots Café where student interns age 9 to 17 can earn their Food Handler’s certification and learn culinary skills in this fully-operational vegan restaurant. Orchard Community Learning Center oversees the Healthy Roots program and explains that it serves “culturally-informed, locally sourced dishes with a healthy side of community!”

Spaces of Opportunity

Looking Ahead

The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation’s initial investment of $315,000 has helped Spaces of Opportunity with the buildout of a shade structure, water and plumbing, and staffing positions. The new $100,000 donation from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation will be used for cool storage, a commercial kitchen, and other property enhancements. Together, with the core group of nonprofit partners, Spaces will continue building empowerment and wellness programs to serve South Phoenix residents for years to come.

* The nonprofit partners operating the Fresh Connections and Feed Phoenix programs include the American Heart Association, Orchard Community Learning Center, TigerMountain Foundation, and Unlimited Potential.