Case Detail

Case Summary

A City's Desert: No Apples in the Big Apple? (B)

Case Number: 5-410-758(B), Year Published: 2011

HBS Number: KEL522

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Authors: Jamie Jones ; Jennifer Rowland

Key Concepts

Social Impact, Social Innovation, Health Initiatives, Sustainability, Food Service, Green Carts, Nutrition, Mobile Food Vending, Strategic Alliances, Ecosystems, Obesity, Diabetes, Nonprofit


The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Physical Activity and Nutrition Program needed to come up with an innovative solution to the many health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease that plagued residents of poorer areas in the city, while increasing economic opportunity for neighborhood residents. The result was the launching of Green Carts, a new mobile food vending initiative to support the introduction of healthier food options to residents of “food deserts” in New York City boroughs. The challenge was navigating the diverse landscape of players and engaging all of the relevant stakeholders to come up with a solution that was both feasible and sustainable.

This case exemplifies the how partnership and strategic alliances can be used to have significant social impact. The beauty of this example is that it simultaneously addresses two large social issues: 1) access to healthy food options in urban food deserts and 2) creating self-employment opportunities for members of disadvantaged communities. This case also illustrates how the public sector can act as social innovators.

Learning Objectives

Evaluate a complex real-world example of the types of partnership that must be formed in order to achieve scalable social impact.
Use the ecosystem analysis framework provided in class to analyze the potential stakeholder groups and make recommendations about the types of partnership that should be put in place in order to maximize the effectiveness of the program.

Number of Pages: 6

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Entrepreneurship, Non Profit, Strategy

Geographic: New York City, New York, United States

Industry: Public Sector

Organization Name: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Organization Department: Physical Activity and Nutrition Program

Organization Size: Medium

Decision Maker Position: Deputy Director

Decision Maker Gender: Female

Year of Case: 2009