Linking Food to Health to Work

DAYTON, Ohio (February 2018) – I’ve been blessed with opportunities to write and speak about our Dayton area workforce on numerous occasions.  We have a great workforce in our region; but not without its challenges.  The Midwest boasts a strong work ethic, a sense of work loyalty and responsibility, and an understanding of how a good job can morph into a solid career and a lifestyle that can improve one’s family and personal life.

But we suffer from some of the same challenges faced by many other urban communities.  For one, we don’t have enough of the skilled workers we need for our own area businesses.  We are making advances; however, with a number of positive initiatives that will help us “grow and retain our own”.  This is a meaningful strategy that is forever ongoing and one that must be sustained year after year.

Along the way we have been met by other challenges to our economy that one would think might surely not exist in Midwestern America.  One is food … good nutrition … and the health of our workforce and how that too relates to the needs of our employers.  Over the last two years, many of us have watched certain geographical sections of our communities lose their ability to retain or add retail or wholesale food services that are conveniently located around much of our working population.

One might say to themselves, “Why fret?  What’s the big deal?  I’ve driven miles to my grocer my whole life.”  But realistically, some of us don’t have the same transportation resources many others have and even with an active urban transit system, that service may not be able to conveniently serve every block or every citizen in every neighborhood.

Enter a fairly new and exciting initiative that is gaining ground in one of our geographic food deserts.  This future co-op food market, the Gem City Market, plans to be a strategically located, full-service grocery store based along the Salem Avenue corridor.   It could serve significant populations that need access to fresh foods and good nutrition that may not currently exist.  This void of access to nutritional food affects our children who will grow up to be our future workers and leaders in our community.

So if it isn’t already too obvious, let me try to connect the dots for any who might be asking themselves why they should support this initiative for better access to convenient, fresh, nutritional food.  Our employers need good workers … workers need to be healthy in order to be effective at work … and, good, fresh food and produce are vital to the health and well-being of our children, families, the elderly as well as our working breadwinners.  Nutritional food translates to health which is needed for our workforce to be efficient and effective every day in their jobs.

This new co-op food source, if supported by our community, is scheduled to open by 2019.  It will not be the panacea to this challenge; but it will certainly be part of the solution to one more of the challenges we face in our urban community.  I, for one, will advocate for its success and support it through our business community employers and by our elected leaders.

Sure … this may seem like it’s supporting businesses’ self-enlightened interests.  Well maybe it is.  But little will be sacrificed if we can find ways in which we can all achieve these basic goals.  For me, I can easily connect the dots from food to health to work.

If you want to help, contact the Gem City Market at  I am certain they would welcome your corporate and/or individual advocacy and support in their efforts to eliminate a local food desert and help our citizens who are eager to succeed.

To download a PDF of this article as it appeared in the Dayton Daily News, click here.

Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE
President & CEO
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce