Dwayne Wharton

Dwayne Wharton
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Cohort Start Year: 2017 Project Topics: Food Systems and Nutrition, Obesity Populations Served: At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Low-Income Communities
Founder and Senior Consultant
Just Strategies

I live and work in the city of Philadelphia—a place of rich history, incredible people, and a host of big problems. Roughly one-quarter of the city lives in poverty; there are approximately 40,000 lots with little known use; in many low-income communities, finding healthy food is a challenge and diet-related diseases are prevalent; and many residents have been marginalized because of their status. Many people are working to address these issues and make the city better. I see my participation in the Culture of Health Leaders program as an opportunity to connect with leaders from diverse sectors across the country who are also committed to collaboration and creative solutions. Specifically, I would like to help activate vacant lots to serve as access points where healthy food is grown and sold by community members, returning citizens, immigrants, youth, and other marginalized groups. Doing so would provide income to those who are unemployed and underemployed, activate space in ways that benefit communities and the environment, and improve health by increasing access to healthy food.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Center for Community- based Advocacy
The Center for Community-based Advocacy will support and empower people and organizations to lead the change they envision for themselves and their communities while simultaneously building capacity to serve them. My goal of the Center will be to increase knowledge and impact by: providing quality learning opportunities on building capacity to effectively influence public policy and advance the health, equity, and wellbeing of communities; providing connection to resources by creating a platform to support this work (e.g., website, toolkits, funding and connection to campaigns, sharing of best practices); hosting public forums, stakeholder meetings, and convenings on issues and community-based advocacy; a the field of health equity and participatory advocacy through thought leadership (trainings, speaking at meetings and conferences, blogs, a web-based clearing house of resources and information); and thought partnership and/or technical assistance to groups that are leading campaigns.

Northwest Philadelphia born and raised, I experienced episodes of hardship but was fortunate to have a supportive family and community to see me through—since then I have always wanted to give back. In college, I was exposed to higher learning and the principles of service, and I joined the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, which continues to serve as a network of men who expect achievement and leadership as the norm. As a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, I realized that I am a resource. I have worked with homeless men and women, provided disaster relief, mentored youth, helped to advance healthy food access and health equity across the country, and in starting my organization, Just Strategies, I am supporting people, communities, & organizations lead change that results in a more just & fair world. I realize none of my experiences, or these issues, operate in isolation from each other. Because the Culture of Health Leaders program looks at so many ways in which people’s health is impacted, I hope to continue to connect these dots and find ways to help communities come up with and lead the change they deserve and envision for themselves.