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  • Writer's pictureAlex Nelson

Birmingham's innovative plan for local food ecosystems earns honor from Bloomberg

Last week, Birmingham became one of 50 Champion Cities to qualify as a finalist in the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge, a global innovation competition that identifies and accelerates the most ambitious ideas developed by cities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These 50 urban innovations rose to the top of a competitive pool of more than 630 applications from 99 countries, in the first-ever Global Mayors Challenge.

As a Mayors Challenge finalist, Birmingham now advances to the four-month Champion Phase of the competition. From June through October, the 50 finalist cities will refine their ideas with technical assistance from Bloomberg Philanthropies and its network of leading innovation experts. Fifteen of the 50 cities will ultimately win the grand prize, with each receiving $1 million and robust multi-year technical assistance to implement and scale their ideas. Grand Prize Winners will be announced in early 2022.

“These 50 finalists are showing the world that in the face of the pandemic’s enormous challenges, cities are rising to meet them with bold, innovative, and ambitious ideas,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City. "By helping these cities test their ideas over the coming months, we will have a chance to identify cutting-edge policies and programs that can allow cities to rebuild in ways that make them stronger and healthier, and more equal and more just.”

Birmingham proposes to enable access to quality, affordable food by equipping next-generation community leaders to lead the charge. Nearly 70 percent of Birmingham residents lack access to quality, affordable foods close to home. The proposed Birmingham Food Corps seeks to generate new solutions to this generational challenge. Comprised of Birmingham City Schools graduates, the Birmingham Food Corps will become food system experts through hands-on training and rotations with local food system stakeholders. They will develop ideas for foods systems change through training in human-centered design and entrepreneurship, backed by seed funding to pilot their ventures.

“The pandemic showed us that we can’t rely on existing grocery store models and emergency food supply chains to meet the need in our community,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin. “We need to shift the balance of food power back to the community and catalyze home-grown solutions for food access. The Mayors Challenge will help us test and refine how to do this, alongside local food system partners like Jones Valley Teaching Farm and neighborhood leaders who are immersed in this work.”

The 50 Champion Cities submitted ideas addressing four of the most significant challenges borne of the pandemic: Economic Recovery & Inclusive Growth; Health & Wellbeing; Climate & Environment; and Good Governance & Equality. A prestigious selection committee co-chaired by Bloomberg Philanthropies board member Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO & President, Ariel Investments, and David Miliband, President & CEO, International Rescue Committee, assessed the applications to determine the Champion City finalists.

This is always an especially exciting phase of the Mayors Challenge, helping mayors push their innovations to even greater heights,” said James Anderson, head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “While 15 cities will ultimately take home grand prizes, all 50 cities receive world class coaching and support to improve their ideas and their potential to improve lives.”

The 2021 Global Mayors Challenge builds on the success of four previous Bloomberg-sponsored Challenges in the U.S. (2013 and 2018), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016). For more information, visit and @BloombergCities on Twitter and Instagram.


Courtesy of The City of Birmingham



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