The report from the International Institute of Akron is the first step in a listening project to hear from residents of the ethnically diverse neighborhood that was once home to a large number of Italian immigrants. Today, an increasing number of immigrants are South Asian -- more than 5,000 in the past decade.
The institute’s Liz Schmidt co-authored the report and says one thing that many residents mentioned – regardless of background – was the desire to have community gardens in North Hill.
“There’s such a passion towards home-grown food and food in general. It was brought up a number of times. There’s a lot of people who feel -- and it’s not just immigrants and refugees who feel that but also American-born people – who have a lot of connections to agriculture and wanting to grow their own food.”
Schmidt added that a portion of the need for fresh food is being met by recent farmers markets in North Hill.
Johanna Solomon of Kent State University’s School of Peace & Conflict Resolution helped analyze the data in the report. She says another issue raised was language barriers.
“Someone is worried about speaking imperfect English and doesn’t want to engage with their neighbor because they don’t feel comfortable doing that. Sometimes there are U.S.-born English-speaking people who don’t understand that their neighbor does speak English, or that they can communicate in some way. So even the perception of language barriers increases the issue of language barriers.”
Editor's Note: The email address to RSVP for the next community dialogue session and the hours have been updated.