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.

The Youth Connection Combats Childhood Obesity

The Youth Connection, in partnership with the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative, worked together to promote our Fit ‘N’ Fun Family Clubs in the Osborn, Southwest Detroit and Brightmoor communities of Detroit in 2012 and 2013. The Fit ‘N’ Fun Family Clubs brought together parents, partners and children in these communities to increase healthy eating and exercise habits. The program focused on:

  1. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake
  2. Increasing physical activity
  3. Decreasing intake of sweetened beverages
  4. Decreasing screen time (TV, computer, video games)

“We feel it is vitally important to the future of Detroit that our kids know the value of eating right and exercising,” said Dr. Grenaé Dudley, President and CEO of The Youth Connection. “Our mission is to help families become healthier and more active while engaging our kids and parents in a fun and family-oriented after-school activity.”

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 70% of Detroiters are obese or overweight. Nationally, the adverse health effects of childhood obesity are well documented. Over half of Detroit residents live in “food deserts,” an area with inadequate access to nutritious foods. The lack of supermarkets in Detroit along with the closing of several city recreation centers has contributed to an increase in numerous medical conditions and threatens the health of the entire community.

The Fit ‘N’ Fun Family Clubs focused on educating students ages 6-12 and their parents about the values of healthy eating and active lifestyles. Six two-hour workshops were held for every session beginning with an orientation for parents and children, four lessons on the above mentioned themes, and then a healthy cooking demonstration and closing session.

We completed Fit ‘N’ Fun Family Clubs in schools (Brenda Scott, The Academy of Americas, Gompers Elementary, Bates Academy), Community-based organizations (MAN Network, Latino Family Services) and at churches (True Light Temple). The participants at each location had a blast, and our outcomes in terms of knowledge of healthy lifestyles and behavior change in the participants were very impressive.

We promoted our Fit ‘N’ Fun Family Clubs at our Annual After-School Fair, our Boo Walk, which was a community event designed to be a healthy pre-cursor to Halloween, and at several Educational Achievement Authority open houses.

Overall, we thought the program was a huge success and we look forward to continuing our healthy lifestyle and nutrition education programming in the future.

Complete Streets Impact Health

The following edited excerpt is from a journal article submitted for W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Digest of Community Development. It was written by Nikita Buckhoy, Todd Scott, and Myra Tetteh, members of the Physical Activity Workgroup (formerly Built Environment Workgroup) of the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative.

The paper addressed how complete streets and greenways are solutions to Detroiter’s  concerns around safety, health and economy. In February we published an excerpt on safety; this article addresses how complete streets have the potential for improved community health.

Detroit residents suffer from chronic diseases and obesity at an alarming rate. Much of this can be avoided with better nutrition and increased physical activity. However, Detroiters lack availability and access to walkable and bikeable communities. The Physical Activity Workgroup is working diligently to improve the access to safe spaces to physically active in Detroit.

Our workgroup leads the Detroit Complete Streets Coalition, which has a three-pronged purpose: 1) to build and sustain a coalition, 2) to educate the community on complete streets, and 3) to lead the effort to pass a complete streets ordinance. The complete streets ordinance will encourage the planning and implementation of complete streets infrastructure in the community.

These changes are in line with the Institute of Medicine, which recommends fighting childhood obesity by establishing ordinances to encourage the construction of sidewalks, bikeways, and other places for physical activity, like those suggested with complete streets policies. (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2011)

Residents are 65 percent more likely to walk in a neighborhood with sidewalks, which is a method of making a street a complete street. (Giles-Corti & Donovan, 2002)

Additionally, the planning and construction of greenways in communities increase the opportunities for residents to be physically active. Forty-three percent of people with safe places to walk within ten minutes of home met recommended activity levels; among those without safe places to walk just 27 percent met the recommendation. (Powell, Martin, & Chowdhury, 2003)

The Dequindre Cut in Detroit is a shining example of a greenway that increases the opportunities for residents to be physically active. Located in Downtown Detroit, the Dequindre Cut gives access to residents and visitors alike to walk and bike on an off-road facility. The city of Detroit was the recipient of a $10,000,000 grant through Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II funding. This will extend the Dequindre Cut to Eastern Market, a six-block market selling healthy, fresh foods to residents at affordable rates.

Walking Against Blight in Warren/Conner Community

Walking Against Blight, sponsored by Warren/Conner Development Coalition and the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative, seeks to dually promote the well-being of its participants and improvement of their neighborhoods. This program is designed to assist residents with healthy lifestyle education to better both their health and the built environment. WAB also acts as a tool to assist lower eastside communities with documenting and tracking blighted locations in their neighborhoods and developing action and advocacy strategies to address them.

The 2012 WAB program season saw two programs stem from one. The WAB program sprouted the “Walking Against Blight Walking Club” which addressed healthy lifestyle education and the “Mobile Mapping Project” which tracked and recorded blight.

The Walking Against Blight Walking Club had 29 registered members. The club members walked more than 550 miles, 1.4 million steps and burned more than 20 pounds collectively from September 2012 to December 2012.

In November 2012, 12 residents from two eastside pilot areas used mobile technology to walk through their neighborhoods and record instances of blight – vacant buildings, illegal dumping, abandoned vehicles, etc. Warren/Conner Development Coalition conducted the training and facilitated the data collection.

The surveyors recorded over 2000 instances of blight.  There was a 63% increase in the number of incidents recorded in 2012 compared to the 1200 incidents in 2011. A photograph was taken of each occurrence and the location was recorded, ultimately creating a database and Google Earth based map. The Google Earth Map is much more comprehensive and user-friendly than previous maps done for this project.

Moving forward, our goal is to be able to continue to update the database while also expanding to other neighborhoods within Detroit city limits to create a larger database of blight that can be targeted for remediation while empowering residents and youth to implement blight remediation efforts. Ultimately, we hope to be able to create safer, more walkable communities that promote better public and physical health.

Contact Darnell Adams for more information at 313-571-2800 x 3202 or

Third Annual Detroit Food Summit Slated for April

Join the Detroit Food Policy Council for our third annual summit on April 4-6, 2013 at Focus: HOPE. The theme of the Detroit Food 2013 is “What’s on Your Plate?” and will feature speakers, workshops and of course, local food!  The Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative is co-hosting this event.

Workshops will focus on four topics: Food and Nutrition Education, Sourcing Food Locally, The Politics of Food, and The Future of Detroit’s Food. Watch the Detroit Food Policy Council’s website and Facebook page for a program schedule to be published soon.

On April 4th, don’t miss our keynote speaker: Nikki Henderson, Executive Director, People’s Grocery in Oakland, California. Nikki began her work in social justice through the foster care system in Southern California, having been raised with seven older foster brothers, and later shifted into sustainability, developing course curriculum for the University of California system and advocating across the state for environmental justice and political ecology. She has worked closely with Van Jones and Phaedra Ellis Lamkins at Green for All, fighting for a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. She was also a part of Slow Food USA in Brooklyn, New York. In 2009, Nikki co-founded Live Real, a national collaborative of food movement organizations committed to strengthening and expanding the youth food movement in the United States. In 2010, Nikki was featured in ELLE magazine as a Gold Awardee. She has a master’s degree in African American Studies from UCLA, and is originally from Los Angeles.

Summit registration is $20 per person for all three days.  A limited number of scholarships are available. Register on our website at and call us at (313) 833-0396 for more information or to request a registration form in the mail.

DFFC to Study Detroit Food Economy

Detroit has a rich agricultural history and is home to a vibrant community food system. Although Detroit has experienced decades of economic decline, there are many assets fueling the city’s future.

Detroit is a national model for urban agriculture initiatives, and community food partners have worked tirelessly to create an inclusive environment where everyone has access to good food. Other under-utilized assets include vacant land and buildings, direct access to fresh water, a busy international border crossing, and committed people who are passionate about revitalizing the city.

Because of the city’s history and its many assets, the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative (DFFC) will be conducting a study of Detroit’s food economy in 2013. A study of the local food economy in Detroit that documents both opportunities and gaps will help guide and inform future investments. This study will examine three major areas of interest:

Distribution- methods and/or systems currently utilized to distribute good food within the city of Detroit and SE Michigan

Localization- percentage of local purchasing resulting in the greatest economic benefit for the city of Detroit; proposed timeframe for reaching the local purchasing goal; and the infrastructure, methods, and consumer behaviors required to reach goal within designated timeframe

Workforce- employment opportunities currently available in the food system and future opportunities that may be available if the localization goal is achieved

An essential component of the study is community engagement that will include Detroit residents, local entrepreneurs, civic, and business leaders. Community focus groups will be conducted for feedback on design, the data collection process, and the development and dissemination of the final study.

DFFC is partnering with the Detroit Food Policy Council, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and Detroit Future City on this project, and we look forward to providing updates on our progress throughout the year.