Resilient Neighborhoods: Crystal Staffney speaks on community health work on Detroit's West Side

This is part of a series of Q&A interviews with Detroit nonprofit directors connected to our Resilient Neighborhoods series. Crystal Staffney is the deputy director of the Joy Southfield Community Development Corporation and will be assuming the role of executive director later this year.

Model D: To start off, what can you tell us about your organization?

Crystal Staffney: Joy Southfield Community Development Corporation was established about 20 years ago. The organization was founded by Second Grace United Methodist Church in 2001. Joy Southfield CDC initially operated as a mini JSCDC HQ and CCC clinic clinic for those who were uninsured in Detroit's 7th district. The mini clinic provided health screenings and other preventative care health services like vaccination and immunization. Over the last several years, we have been enhancing our community health department and moving towards the community economic dev side as well. 

Model D: I've heard that one of your big priorities right now is addressing what are called the social determinants of health. Could you explain what that means for our readers who may not have heard of the term before?.

CS: I would define it as the non-medical aspects that impact health outcomes and risks. So I think of circumstances and the environment where people are born, live, play, and work. That involves a wide range of health issues and quality of life. 

Model D: What are some of the big health concerns in the community you serve?

CS: I would say, food security issues; not having a lot of grocery stores in the area Or having stores that are overpriced. Also the inability to be able to eat healthy because of financial resources. If you have $62 to your name and five kids, It's going to be very difficult to get a healthy meal when McDonalds is selling burgers for 50 cents. 

Model D: What about the biggest health issues residents are dealing with?

CS: Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and cardiovascular issues. And I believe [their prevalence] is because [residents] don't have access to healthy food or don't have the resources to purchase it. And that's one reason we hold our farmers market because we have low-cost produce. Our goal is to try and support the community with at least the fruits and vegetables that they need to live healthier.

Model D: Tell us about your farmers market.
CS: Under our community health department, we have a farmers market, which isJSCDC's farmers market called sowing seeds growing futures. We operate from typically the end of May or the beginning of June through October every year. 

The market has been around 12 years. We secure and retain vendors in the community that sell fresh produce. We also have a community organization of small businesses as part of our market. So this year, we'll be starting June 7. That's every Tuesday from 3 pm to 6 pm. In addition to our farmer's market. We are still collaborating with Covenant Community Care. Our partnership was formed around 2012. We share space with Covenant Community Care clinic and they provide medical services and dental services for the 7th district. 

Model D: What other health-related programming do you offer?

CS: We have our Cooking For Change program. [it's] lead by our community chef who provides healthy cooking demonstrations for our residents during the farmers market each week. Our chef plans, purchases, and prepares nutritionally sound food. He also provides different training on cooking techniques and food preparation during our farmers market. Once our farmers market ends, our chef actually travels around the community Implementing evidence-based programs for our residents. This includes recipes, instructions, and also locating ingredients that are low-cost to fit their budget. 

[We also have] our healthy prescription program that is a partnership with Covenant Community Care. We support patients that are suffering from chronic disease like diabetes and congestive heart failure. We support them in developing a diet and regimen that will help them to turn around their medical issues. Through the partnership, we provide  Covenant Carte patients with healthy fruit and vegetables in food boxes. They have to receive a prescription from the doctor, then they come to us and we support them in developing that regimen, meeting with them each week to make sure they're staying on track to reach their goals. 

And then finally we have our HEAL support group. That stands for health, eating, activity, and learning. The support group is diabetes-focused right now. My goal is to eventually add [residents dealing with]  heart and cardiovascular disease to this program. We support those living with a disease with resource information, weekly conversations with health experts, and different incentives through the program. So that's the community health side.

Now, in terms of our community economic development side, We're still developing things and Enhancing our program. Right now, one of our main programs under community economic development is our Healthy Homes Rx program. We are working very diligently with some of our partners and funders to support our residents who are dealing with issues within their homes that are affecting their health, maybe causing asthma and other issues. In the past we have supported residents with mold issues, lead issues, repairing roofs and different things like that. This year we're working to do more repairs. [There's] an application process, and we have a ton of residents that need support. It's first-come-first-serve, based on the resources we have at the time.

Model D: Anything else you'd like our readers to know about?

CS: One of the major projects that we are working on is seeking a building to purchase and renovate. One of our future goals is to create a community hub for our residents and businesses. We want to [operate] a space where you can come, if you need a meeting space. We also want to be the go-to spot for businesses to learn how to create proposals or different things that will benefit the future of their businesses. And, beyond that, we're looking to create a community kitchen where community chefs will be able to come and prep for their events.

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series that examines how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from the Kresge Foundation.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.