Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative is a group of 40 organizations developing ways to ensure that everyone in Detroit – especially the most vulnerable children – has access to affordable, healthy locally grown food and opportunities to be physically active.

Time for Change at Detroit Food Policy Council

This past year has been a year of change for the Detroit Food Policy Council, which is a member of the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative. In February, we adopted a strategic plan that outlines our objectives for the next three years. The strategic plan will allow DFPC to carry out the primary goals of the organization, which are to:

  • Research, recommend and/or develop new food-related policy, as the need arises.
  • Use advocacy strategies to ensure that food system policies that meet Detroiters’ needs in the food system are adopted, implemented, reviewed and revised.
  • Engage a diverse, representative group of Detroiters in the work of the DFPC as members of the DFPC, work groups and committees.
  • Engage a diverse, representative group of Detroiters in all aspects of our food system by equipping residents with a strong conceptual framework of knowledge in advocacy and policy related to food security, food justice and food sovereignty so that they actively support the development of a healthy, just and sustainable local food system.
  • Build the organizational capacity of the DFPC to fulfill the roles, goals and objective defined in our strategic plan.

The strategic plan of DFPC outlines specific objectives to obtain these goals:

  1. Develop of relationship with Mayor, City Council and city departments for the purpose of educating and engaging them on the importance of food and the food system to all Detroit residents.
  2. Review and update the Food Security Policy that was adopted by the City of Detroit in March 2008.
  3. Continue to work in collaboration with the City of Detroit to monitor existing policies and participate in the development of new policies related to urban agriculture and access to land. Support the work of Food Lab’s Operation Aboveground.
  4. Conduct follow-up activities related to the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative’s Economic Impact Study.
  5. Develop and implement a strategy around retail food establishments that addresses access and equity.
  6. Develop a strategy to engage adult foster care facilities in delivering good food to their residents.
  7. Develop a community engagement plan, building on the work of our Emerson Fellow, that includes building stronger partnerships with residents.
  8. Develop connections between and among local, state and federal food and non-food related organizations in order to support the good food movement in Detroit and beyond.
  9. Hold the 4th Annual Food Summit with the theme: Race to Good Food. Develop the summit into a “can’t miss” event and part of a year-round education engagement and celebration of the local food system.
  10. Plan and implement the next Annual Food Report.

In May we elected a new Executive Committee. Suezette Olaker became the third chair of the board. We also welcomed Jerry Ann Hebron as vice chair, Mimi Pledl as treasurer, and Sandra Turner-Handy as secretary.

In August, our coordinator of three years left DFPC to take a position at the United Way of Southeast Michigan. The Detroit Food Policy Council is currently searching for an executive director. This is a new position for the Food Policy Council. The executive director will manage the day-to-day operations of DFPC and implement the organization’s strategic plan. The qualifications we are looking for in the Executive Director are:

  • Must be extensively familiar with urban food systems, poverty, food security, and health and food justice issues.
  • Possess strong managerial skills, excellent networking, community relations and writing skills; demonstrate leadership, self-motivation and ability to coordinate work with collaborative groups, neighborhood groups, and government officials.
  • Prior work experience will include a minimum of five years working in the food system in a public, non-profit and /or for-profit environment; policy analysis, community development (food, health, youth, housing, etc.), fund development and grant writing.
  • Experience supervising staff and/or volunteers
  • Experience working with diverse communities
  • Strong organizational and written/verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Understanding of balance sheets and financial reports
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office applications required.
  • Bachelor’s degree in public policy, public health, urban planning, agriculture or related fields.
  • Resident of the City of Detroit
  • Pass a background employment check and drug test

Detroit Food Policy Council is still accepting applications for this position. If you would like to apply send cover letter, resume and three references electronically to: detroitfoodpolicycouncil@gmail.com with DFPC Executive Director Application in the subject line or via mail to: Detroit Food Policy Council, Attention: Hiring Committee, 2934 Russell St. Detroit, MI  48207.  For more information contact Kibibi Blount-Dorn, interim coordinator for the Detroit Food Policy Council at 313-833-0396 or kibibi.dfpc@gmail.com.

Michigan Good Food Summit – Well Done!

Two weeks ago, 350 individuals gathered at the Michigan Good Food Summit in Lansing to discuss all issues around the Michigan Good Food Charter, which is a vision and plan to create an equitable food system in our state.

The vision pairs up nicely with the work of Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative, which is developing ways to ensure that everyone in Detroit – especially the most vulnerable children – has access to affordable, healthy locally grown food and opportunities to be physically active.

Not surprisingly, people from all walks of the food world were present at the summit – farmers, food bankers, school and hospital food service professionals, food processors, and others who care about creating a robust and fair food system in Michigan.

Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative was well represented with a number of members present, including Detroit Public Schools, Gleaners Community Food Bank, Eastern Market, Fair Food Network, Ecology Center, Keep Growing Detroit, Detroit Food Justice Task Force, Greening of Detroit, Detroit Food Policy Council, MSU Extension, among others.

The summit provided a forum to bring food systems people together to talk about a common agenda from a variety of angles. Themes around measuring success, collaborating, dignity and fairness for farm workers and restaurant workers, sustainable farming practices, public health, food justice, and food security were all on the table.

Without regurgitating a run down of the agenda, keynotes, and breakout sessions – many of which were compelling, thought-provoking and enlightening – we thought it better to share some standout quotes from some of the presenters and participants.

Stop working in silos or thinking that your work is the most important work. Start collaborating to increase our drive around increasing access to good food for children and families.Betti Wiggins, Executive Director of the Office of Nutrition, Detroit Public Schools

Christine Quane from Eastern Market, moderates a keynote with Betti Wiggins (center) and Barbara Norman (right)

Farm workers are an invisible population. Forty thousand are under age 20. By in large, they are family groups. One-quarter are living below poverty level.Tom Thornburg, Farmworker Legal Services, Kalamazoo

The legacy of Cesar Chavez articulates the need for action. We can’t continue to watch occupational segregation in metro Detroit. A race tax is being paid at 33 percent. There has to be action.Alicia Farris, Restaurant Opportunities Center-Michigan, Detroit

Geese demonstrate alignment and collaboration. They fly in formation. They fly at the same speed as their neighbor, they maintain a minimum distance, and they always turn toward the center.Rich Pirog, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, Lansing

The thing with tribal nations, there are inherent rights, but if you’re completely reliant on someone else to feed you, how sovereign can you be? I do believe when it comes to food, it comes to power. If you take away access to food, you take away power.Barbara Smutek, MSU Extension, Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program, Sault Ste. Marie

It is not enough to progress as individuals when our friends and neighbors are left behind.Tom Thornburg, Farmworker Legal Services, Kalamazoo

They are doing great things with the young people of Detroit to get them involved in the food system, farming, being chefs. Or just getting the kids to eat better. That makes me very excited and gives me hope for the future.Sharon Ostrowski, Sharkar Farms, St. Clair County

We must keep in mind at all steps along the way what good food is: healthy, green, fair and affordable.Michelle Napier-Dunnings, Michigan Food & Farming Systems, East Lansing

FoodLab Detroit

Thanks to MSU Center for Regional Food Systems for bringing so many compassionate people together for a lively and thoughtful day.

Detroit Eats: Meldrum Fresh Farmers’ Market

Earthworks Urban Farm was founded in 1999 by Brother Rick Samyn in an effort to feed the hungry while addressing “the systemic causes of poverty, broken relationships and a wounded Earth.” The garden has been growing in size, bounty, and reputation ever since. The Meldrum Fresh Market (named after its location on Meldrum St.) sells the organic produce grown on the garden located directly behind it.

“It’s more than just about having a market. It’s about learning about farming.” – Brittney, mentee-turned-mentor

Baskets of plump eggplants and leafy kale fill make a bountiful spread for customers to choose from. All of the food is laid out under the unstained wooden shed. The shelter has sinks and a washing-processing area in the back where farm apprentices wash the vegetables before selling them. The shed is tall and protected so that work can be done inside, but with open walls allowing sunlight to pour in over the fresh food.

The busy people doing this prep work are members of the Earthworks Agriculture Training (E.A.T.) Program. The program is made up of three mentors and 12 mentees. Brittney, a current mentor, explained that the nine-month long program teaches the farming skills necessary to grow healthy crops, as well as the marketing techniques required to sell them. Last year, Brittney was a mentee within the program.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a small-scale, close to home version of the community that is fostered at the Earthworks Urban Farm. Part of their mission is to strive for “peace, respect, and harmony between Neighbor and Nature.”

The washing-processing shed where the produce, which is grown on-site, is also sold

The “Garden of Unity” is an example how Earthworks reaches out to its neighbors, who tend to small patches of land. A larger idea of the word neighbor can also be applied to the visitors that Earthworks receives from around the world. Brittney recalled people as far as Spain and Australia.

Sean Bernardo has been coming to Earthworks for over two years. His brother, Shane, is the market manager of the Meldrum Market. Originally from Windsor, these brothers have become heavily involved in the urban farming scene within the city. While the farm draws in people from all over the world, Sean emphasized the community and continuous support he receives at Earthworks. “There’s people you can talk to,” he said. “If you’re having a crisis, there’s people to talk to. You can be at home.”

Whether it is the immediate neighbor living down the street, or the international neighbor, Earthworks extends a welcoming hand. The E.A.T. employees were so knowledgeable, enlightening me on topics ranging from species of peppers to how certain geography and development processes lead to flooding. I left well-informed on a wide range of subjects, and with the strong urge to become more involved in such a wonderful place!

Sean Bernardo

The Meldrum Farmers’ Market is open every Thursday from 11a.m.-2 p.m. at 1264 Meldrum.  They accept SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, Project FRESH, and Senior Market FRESH. Its last market day of the season is October 30.

What’s Happening with the Michigan Good Food Charter

The Michigan Good Food Charter is a vision statement and set of goals for the food system in Michigan developed collectively in 2009-2010 by hundreds of people across the state.

The Charter is important because everyone in Michigan deserves access to good food. Not everyone has that right now, and the charter puts forward goals and strategies for changing that. The charter also calls for supporting Michigan agriculture and farmers – both for the sake of farmers, too many of whom are not profitable, and as way to strengthen the local economy.

Our role at MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems is to build partnerships around the goals of the charter, to track progress, and to get the word out.

The charter outlines a shared vision, six key goals and 25 policy priorities; it’s a long and thorough document, so I thought it would be helpful to update DFFC members about our progress in a few key areas.

One of the areas where we’ve made much headway is in building awareness and support for the charter goals. We’re in a good place at the state and local level, with groups on board with the charter goals and working to support them. We see the charter as strengthening a network of networks. We’re all sharing the same vision and goals and working together to achieve the goals logistically. This helps leverage work around the state.

Another area where we’re making notable progress is with institutional purchasing of local food. This work is being spearheaded by Michigan Farm to Institution Network, a statewide learning and practice collaborative that supports Michigan institutions’ efforts to increase local food purchases. The network is encouraging organizations to sign on to Cultivate Michigan, to get 20 percent of the food that they buy from Michigan producers by 2020.

We’ve also made strides around providing support for food-related businesses. The Michigan Food Hub Learning and Innovation Network has been instrumental in furthering efforts to create local distribution hubs in communities across Michigan by creating opportunities for people to learn from each other. Michigan also received a $3 million federal grant to create the Michigan Good Food Fund, which will provide access to capital and technical assistance to businesses across the supply chain that will help make healthy food more available in underserved areas.

The more challenging areas of the charter are in supporting farmers to supply Michigan markets profitably and supporting beginning farmers (the average age of farmers continues to notch up). We’re starting to get the state to provide more support for beginning farmers, but progress has been slower than we’d like.

We’ve also been challenged in tracking one of the charter goals around incorporating food and agriculture into curricula and providing youth access to entrepreneurship. We know good local efforts, like the Detroit School Garden Collaborative and the Detroit Food Academy, are underway, but we don’t have a way to quantify or qualify them or track progress statewide.

Despite these challenges, momentum with the good food movement is promising. The Center for Regional Food Systems tries to profile the important work going on to raise public consciousness. We also help organizations and professionals around the state learn and network with each other.

This summer we started a new campaign to get individuals and organizations to sign the Resolution for Support for the Charter and take action. And we’re more active than ever on Facebook and in getting more media coverage on food- and farming-related issues.

Attendees at last year's summit

Lastly, we’re hosting the 2014 Michigan Good Food Summit on October 28 at the Lansing Center. We have a packed agenda, amazing keynote speakers, and engaging breakout sessions planned for the day. We’ll also be releasing our 2014 report card, drawing from new data and showing progress on our six goals from when the charter was first implemented to where we are today. You can register here.

Hope to see you at the summit!

New Release: Economic Analysis of Detroit’s Food System

Detroit’s rich agricultural history, vibrant community food system, and expanding food business opportunities were the impetus for the development of the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative Economic Analysis of Detroit’s Food System.

In mid- to late 2013, research and data collection for the study took place with the help of many diverse stakeholders, including food advocates and practitioners, business and municipal leaders, and community residents. The study documents both opportunities and gaps in the food system, with the purpose of helping to guide and inform future investments.

Recommendations were developed to

  • increase localization;
  • strengthen public policy and systems change activities;
  • develop career and training opportunities across the food value chain; and
  • further develop a growing local food ecosystem in the city.

Next steps include focus groups to review recommendations and develop an action plan for moving the needle on the great opportunities highlighted in the study. Be on the lookout for a focus group near you; we’d love for you to join us!

Please send your questions or comments on the study to: Meredith Freeman,

MJK Community Partners LLC, meredith@Mjkcommunitypartners.net.

Economic Analysis of Detroit’s Food System: Executive Summary