Loiter Is Reimagining a New Future for East Cleveland

Based in East Cleveland, Ohio, Loiter is a nonprofit organization working to uplift its city’s residents by developing successful, community-owned businesses. Through this work, Loiter’s Co-Founder, Chef Ismail Samad, hopes to address the effects of systemic racial and economic injustice.

Using their 3.5 acres, Loiter provides residents with support to develop and operate successful businesses, ranging from food markets to bakeries. Since launching their first phase, the nonprofit has brought food trucks and pop-up shops to Loiter’s premises. As Loiter expands, they plan to add a physical and online marketplace and cafe to support local entrepreneurs while addressing food insecurity. They are also working on developing a line of herbal teas and honey and will encourage local community members to earn additional income by engaging with the production and processing of the goods.

Originally from East Cleveland, Samad launched Loiter in the hopes of tackling some of the city’s most pressing challenges. But, he says, he was committed to avoiding a deficit framework in his approach. “The current narrative is East Cleveland is the poorest city in the state of Ohio,” Samad tells Food Tank.

He explains that he dislikes this perception, bothered by the emphasis on the factors hindering success. Samad hopes others will see “there’s so much untapped talent in this community, there are so many undervalued resources. How,” he asks, “do we leverage them and actually convert that raw talent, those resources, into something the community is stating that they need?”

By channeling this talent, Loiter hopes to facilitate a transformation that is part of a broader vision: a reimagining of the future of Black communities centered on economic justice.

“You can’t deny the fact that there is definitely some severe intentionality of habitual exclusion for communities of color,” Samad tells Food Tank. And Loiter’s model hopes to address this legacy. By developing opportunities for community members to re-invest their resources into East Cleveland, Loiter wants to help uplift both current and future generations.

“If we don’t really create revenue streams that actually allow our next generations to accumulate and transfer wealth to their children, then we’re just going to continue to play in[to] this perpetual, systemic deployment of oppression,” Samad tells Food Tank. Instead, he says, “the paying market has got to be grounded in closed loop systems with circular economies that are tight enough to keep the resources and the dollars within smaller, insular communities and cities.”

Listen to the full conversation with Ismail Samad on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear about Samad’s efforts to fight food waste, Loiter’s vision for the future East Cleveland’s communities, and what it means to Samad to live in “hopeful realities.”

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