The Phillips Community Healthy Living Initiative is a multi-sector collaboration of organizations whose work surrounds three interconnected areas: healthy eating, physical activity, and urban gardens. By addressing root causes of preventable disease, identifying strategies to change policies and systems, and removing the unique barriers low-income and communities of color face, we can have a collective impact improving health and wellness for members of the Phillips Community.

The Phillips Community

The Phillips Community is located south and slightly east of downtown Minneapolis. The boundaries of the Phillips Community are Interstate 94 to the north, East Lake Street to the south, Highway 55 (Hiawatha Avenue) to the east and Interstate 35 to the west. It is one of the most diverse areas of Minneapolis, with American-born residents of many races and ethnicities living alongside immigrants from Latin America, East Africa, and many other parts of the world.

While all of Phillips was historically one neighborhood, the City of Minneapolis has in recent years subdivided the area into four official neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are East Phillips, Venture Village, Midtown Phillips, and Phillips West, but many residents still think of the broader Phillips Community as “my neighborhood.”

Phillips residents face many challenges to maintaining good health. Low incomes and limited grocery options can make it difficult to obtain healthy food. Many parents must work multiple jobs to support their families, leaving limited time for cooking and exercise. The majority of Phillips residents are renters, meaning they may not have access to land for gardening. Concerns about cost or immigration status may prevent people from getting needed medical care. And while public safety has improved significantly in Phillips over the past ten years, concerns about street crime and dangerous traffic conditions still keep some residents from getting out and being active.

Despite these challenges, Phillips is a vibrant neighborhood with many assets. The southern border of Phillips includes the Midtown Greenway, which was named the best urban bike path in the country by USA Today.  The Midtown Exchange building, with its mix of residential, office, governmental and commercial space, is praised as a nationwide example of urban renewal, and its Midtown Global Market has incubated many now-popular Minneapolis restaurants. The large proportion of Native American residents, businesses, and organizations in East Phillips has led bustling Franklin Avenue to be called the “American Indian Cultural Corridor.” With its four public parks and recreation centers, and numerous community organizations serving its diverse population, there is always somewhere in Phillips to gather and have fun with one’s neighbors.

The Phillips Community Healthy Living Initiative is building on these strengths and tackling these challenges so that all residents of Phillips can lead healthier, more connected lives. To find out more about our work, explore this site or contact us!

Brought to you by

The Waite House Neighborhood Center is the home of the Phillips Community Healthy Living Initiative, the base from which we reach out to partner with residents and other neighborhood stakeholders. Waite House was established in 1958 and in 2012 moved into a larger space in a park district building on 11th Avenue and 23rd Street. Each year, more than 4,500 Phillips Community members build social and economic capital via programs administered by 17 diverse staff and 120 volunteers, including 4 AmeriCorps members and students from six local colleges. Waite House programs integrate civic engagement with human services to bring about positive change within our core focus areas of Employment and Training, Health and Nutrition, Youth Development, and Basic Needs.

Waite House is a member of Pillsbury United Communities (PUC), an interconnected network of diverse neighborhood centers, innovative programs and social enterprises that works with isolated and underestimated populations to increase choice, inspire change, and strengthen connections across Minneapolis. PUC provides afterschool programs, affordable day care, healthy food options, acclaimed arts and cultural events, job training, public charter school authorization, and business ventures, like Full Cycle Bike Shop and the PUC Interpreting Agency, as means to address the social and economic inequalities that depress communities’ ability to thrive.

With almost 135 years of experience in the Settlement House movement, Pillsbury United Communities remains committed to the conviction that people guide their own successful transformations. Our proven tactics remain responsive to the issues and desires of the people we serve.

Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change

“It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior easily when so many forces in the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change.” -Smedley and Syme (2000)

The Phillips Community Healthy Living Initiative uses the policy, systems, and environmental change (PSE) approach to improving health in our community. This approach seeks to identify and eliminate barriers to healthy living, making the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone.

Strengthening individuals’ knowledge and skills around health issues is also important, but often people struggle to make healthy choices, even when they want to and know they should. PSE change focuses on looking “upstream” at external factors that make it hard to adopt healthy behaviors or to give up unhealthy ones. These include environmental factors like a lack of parks and bike lanes, governmental policy decisions like how many fast food restaurants are permitted in a given area of a city, and the systems in day-to-day use within organizations, for example whether healthy snacks are offered for sale at a high school’s football games.

By using the PSE change approach, the Phillips Community Healthy Living Initiative is able to address the complex, interrelated causes of poor health in our community in a lasting and effective way. You can find out more about PSE change here

Our Vision

To support wellness and thriving communities, Phillips Community Healthy Living Initiative promotes active participation in the local food system.

2017-18 Goals

  • Increase food security for users of the emergency food systems
  • Generate sustained public and political support for city-wide urban agriculture advocacy and services
  • Ensure racially equitable urban agriculture land use practices by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Our Team

Martin BrownPCHL Program Manager.
Martin “Farmer” Brown is the Phillips Community Healthy Living Initiative Program Manager. He facilitates the Food Shelf ReDesign, oversees Waite House’s farming and gardening operations, and advocates for policy changes to improve food and land access in Minneapolis. A member of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Policy Council and MPRB Urban Agriculture Activity Plan Implementation Committee, and the board chair of Permaculture Research Institute Cold Climate, Brown enjoys making custom condiments from garden produce in his spare time.
Ethan NealFood & Health Equity Coordinator
Ethan joined the Waite House team in June of 2016 after 5 years of working with Pillsbury United Communities Camden location. Ethan works directly with food shelf participants as well as food security teams to ensure that the food shelf is working as effectively as possible. He has a strong passion for community building and sustainable food solutions.
Meghan MuffettCommunity Relations Coordinator
Meghan coordinates the volunteer program and communications for Waite House Community Center. Having been at Waite House for about 2 years, she enjoys getting the word out about the different programs that are offered and helping support initiatives such as PCHL in catalyzing people to create change for their communities.

Snapshots of our Community

“Everyone has something good to give back to this society.”

Meet Koffi

“The circle of life that we live in is all nations.”

Meet Lois

“I think everyone is an organizer.”

Meet Jovita