and Partners

United Neighborhood Houses


United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) is a policy and social change organization representing 43 neighborhood settlement houses that reach 765,000 New Yorkers from all walks of life. Founded in 1919, UNH leads advocacy and partners with its members on a broad range of issues including civic and community engagement, neighborhood affordability, healthy aging, early childhood education, adult literacy, and youth development. It also provides customized professional development and peer learning to build the skills and leadership capabilities of settlement house staff at all levels.


Purpose: To support Building Healthy NYCHA Communities Through Food.

Building Healthy NYCHA Communities Through Food was a multi-year community engagement initiative spearheaded by UNH with support from the Illumination Fund. Settlement houses mobilized, engaged and empowered NYCHA residents of all ages to improve NYCHA residents’ access to healthy food and reduce cost and other barriers to its consumption. Goals included:

  • a resident-driven community planning, outreach, and engagement process (including leadership and volunteer development and participation of residents of all ages);
  • education and training about healthy food (including basic knowledge of nutrition as well as obtaining, distributing, and preparing healthy food) leading to a healthier lifestyle;
  • implementation of more than 40 healthy food access and use projects across seven NYCHA developments led by community members with the support of settlement house staff; and
  • the integration of healthy food projects into other settlement house programs.


In partnership with CUNY School of Public Health’s Urban Food Policy Institute, UNH evaluated the impact of each member organization’s programs. The evaluation focused on qualitative outcomes regarding resident engagement, partnership development and participation. Key learnings from this initiative reinforce the importance of resident leaders who partner with local community-based organizations to create lasting change. Through this initiative, healthy food is now a priority issue in each partner settlement house. The following tools and resources were developed to support this initiative and its replication within other NYCHA developments.

  • Community Planning & Engagement Tools:
    • Community Planning Tip Sheet
    • Healthy Food Survey for local residents
    • Guide for Focus Groups on Healthy Food
    • Healthy Food Retail Audit Form
    • Healthy Food Community Planning Meeting – Guide for Facilitators
    • Team-building Exercises for creating connected communities
    • Photo-Voice Elevating and Amplifying community voices around important issues
    • Community Planning Meeting Posters for Gathering Community Feedback and Generating Ideas (posters come in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese)
  • Evaluation Tools:
    • Social Engagement and Older Adults Survey
    • Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors on Food: Youth Survey
    • Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors on Food: Adult Survey
    • Empowerment and Food Environment Survey
    • Self-Assessment and Reflection Tool for Food Program Staff


Additional Resources

Building Healthy NYCHA Communities Through Food