Growing Opportunity: A Green City Force Graduate’s Journey

Our goal isn’t simply to build our business, but to build better lives in the process. We’re thrilled that partnering to build an urban farm is helping us achieve both.

Growing Healthier Communities
Andrew Lewis

We know building transformational partnerships can help us both grow our company and work toward our goal of building a brighter future. Our new partnership with the Green City Force to build an urban farm in Harlem is particularly important because of the many lives it can benefit.

Not only will the Wagner Houses Farm in East Harlem  provide food access and education for residents, the farm helps provide jobs to local community members through a partnership with the Green City Force. This means the farm helps us reach our business blueprint goal of improving nutrition and also our commitment to enhancing livelihoods.

Wagner Houses Farm is part of Building Healthy Communities (BHC), a city-wide partnership designed to improve health outcomes in 12 neighborhoods in New York City. Led by the Mayor's Office of Strategic Partnerships and the Fund for Public Health NYC, BHC aims to improve opportunities for physical activity, expand access to healthy, affordable food, and promote public safety. The Mayoral initiative is supporting five urban farms at public housing developments in partnership with NYCHA, Green City Force and community partners.

We’re proud to support this inspirational program that hires and trains residents of New York City Housing Authority that otherwise may not have viable paths to employment. After 10 months of learning about sustainability, construction and agriculture, graduates emerge with vastly-improved job prospects.

One perfect example is Andrew Lewis, who recently graduated and returned to the Green City Force as a team leader of the Urban Farm Corps. As Andrew tells, the program impacted his life in many ways:

What sort of work have you done at the Wagner Residents Farm specifically?

Andrew Lewis and Unilever Volunteers

I've helped build this farm from the ground up. Everywhere from outreach to recruitment, the actual build, and hosting Unilever volunteers, I've been a part of it.

For me, it definitely is fun because I have a lot of family that lives in Harlem. This site is special to me, seeing how I am giving back to the community.

The work we do is definitely difficult and demanding, though. You gain an appreciation for the farmers around the world because this isn't a simple task.

Do you think differently now about the food you eat? 

Wagner Houses courtyard

From my experience and the knowledge I’ve gained working at our farm sites, I definitely do. Seeing the transformation of an empty bed filled with soil and then in a couple of months, the crops ready for harvest, gives me a better appreciation and understanding of the veggies I eat. 

Would you say that the program has allowed you to teach people about healthier eating?

Yes, without a doubt. I have been both teaching others about healthy eating and leading by example.

For instance, I engaged with a resident at the farm who was a little skeptical about trying some turnips because she didn't know how to cook them. I explained the many options like baking, boiling or steaming, and how you could even eat them raw or replace traditional greens like collards or spinach. 

What is the thing you want most to get out of this work?

Continue to get rich, and when I say that I mean rich in the form of positive energy. Giving back to my community, the relationships built through agriculture, healthier lives, healthy eating, educating the youth. This is empowerment. This is food justice and we're bringing awareness to the community.

A Perfect Fit For Our Broader Plan 

Andrew’s experience with the Green City Force and the Wagner farm encompasses everything we aim to accomplish in our Unilever social mission.  

His effort mirrors other ways we’re working to provide healthier foods , and to make them more accessible. This partnership is a perfect fit for our broader Unilever goals since it also helps people like Andrew to strengthen their careers and enhance livelihoods throughout the community.

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