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.

Schools Work Group Remobilizes with an Ambitious Agenda

The Detroit Food & Fitness Schools Work Group gathered earlier this month at the Detroit Public Schools’ Office of School Nutrition after an almost yearlong hiatus.

The group outlined two main goals to work on this year: 1) to develop priorities and an advocacy work plan around Federal child nutrition policy and 2) to identify ways spearhead, track and support Good Food in early childhood settings and promote healthy first foods for infants.

As part of our child nutrition advocacy work, we will identify parent and youth engagement opportunities with DFFC partners and workgroups.  Utilizing our homegrown grass roots advocacy model, we will conduct policy trainings for community members and develop a plan for community input to the child nutrition policy process.  A number of local and national groups are a resource to the Work Group for advocacy materials and legislative updates including:

  • Michigan’s No Kid Hungry Campaign led by the United Way of Southeastern Michigan
  • FRAC (Food Research and Action Council), a national anti-hunger organization that lobbies on behalf federal programs that impact food and nutrition,
  • Urban School Food Alliance, a group of the nation’s largest school districts created to offer public school students healthy and delicious meals while keeping food costs low, and
  • National Farm to School Network, which provides a voice for the farm to school movement and information and resources about national, state and local policies that impact farm to school.

The Schools Work Group will also gather feedback through a convening in August with local food groups. The priorities letter will be completed, presented and disseminated. A policy boot camp will also be held for the general public, targeting those most affected by the current federal child nutrition provisions.

The process will cover much of the same framework as the DFFC’s engagement work on federal agriculture policy in 2013-14.

The Work Group’s other major work will focus on replicating good food practices implemented at DPS to the pre-Kindergarten setting.  We will identify outreach opportunities with early childhood providers and identify leverage opportunities in federal child nutrition policies and new Head Start performance standards.  A convening of early childhood providers is planned for early fall.

Anyone interested in more information or joining the schools Work Group should contact DeWayne Wells, DFFC director.

Present at the July 1 meeting were Ashley Atkinson, Keep Growing Detroit; Skyla Butts, DPS; Linda Campbell, community organizer; Melinda Clynes, DFFC; Ebony Roberts, JFM Consulting; DeWayne Wells, DFFC; and Betti Wiggins, DPS.

Increasing Access to Good Food While Driving Economic Development

Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative members and friends, and others who care about access to good food in Detroit, are welcome to join a launch event for the Michigan Good Food Fund. It will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Monday, June 22, at Shed Five in Eastern Market. RSVP here.

This is part two of a two-part series about the fund.

Michigan Good Food Fund is committed to supporting projects that benefit traditionally underserved communities through increased access to nutritious food as well as capital and job opportunities. It also encourages the sourcing of locally grown food and sustainable environmental practices. It presents an opportunity not only for entrepreneurs, but also for foundations and other investors looking to amplify their work for greater impact in service to low-income children and families.

The fund supports efforts across the value chain including healthy food production, distribution, processing, marketing and retail projects. It will offer financing through flexible, competitive loans as well as grant investments with a mission-driven approach, targeting those enterprises often overlooked by traditional sources of financing. Lending will be bolstered by business assistance to help entrepreneurs grow their ventures and build a pipeline of investment-ready projects.

At launch, fund investors include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Max & Marjorie Fisher Foundation.

The goal is to grow the fund to $30 million.

The new Michigan Good Food Fund is modeled after the pioneering Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, the California FreshWorks Fund, and other similar successful statewide efforts. However, unlike other healthy food financing initiatives, which primarily focus on retail efforts, the Michigan fund will work to create financial and social impact throughout the food supply chain.

About Michigan Good Food Fund: The Michigan Good Food Fund is a new public-private partnership loan and grant that provides financing and business assistance to healthy food production, distribution, processing, marketing, and retail projects that benefit underserved communities across Michigan. Join the fund on Facebook or Twitter @MIGoodFoodFund with the hashtag #MGFF.

First-of-its-kind Fund Launches to Support Good Food for All

Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative members and friends, and others who care about access to good food in Detroit, are welcome to join a launch event for the Michigan Good Food Fund. It will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Monday, June 22, at Shed Five in Eastern Market, 2934 Russell St., Detroit. RSVP here.

The inauguration of the fund is aptly ties in with recommendations in the Economic Analysis of Detroit’s Food System, published by DFFC last fall, particularly those related to further developing a growing local food ecosystem in the city and increasing localization.

This is part one of a two-part series about the fund.

In a first of its kind approach to increase access to healthy food while driving economic development, the Michigan Good Food Fund launched this week. The fund is a new public-private partnership loan and grant fund created to address the lack of healthy food access in rural and urban communities alike by supporting good food entrepreneurs across the state.

While Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, with food and agriculture contributing $101.2 billion annually to the state’s economy, more than 1.8 million Michigan residents—including 300,000 children—live in lower-income communities with limited healthy food access. The lack of access to affordable and nutritious food has serious implications for the health of our children and families—more than 30 percent of Michiganders are obese, the second highest rate of obesity in the Midwest region. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted.

Along with the Michigan Good Food Fund boosting accessible healthy food to everyone in Michigan, especially vulnerable communities, it will also create opportunities for food entrepreneurs, harnessing capital and growing strong, local economies.

Created by a coalition of food sector, nonprofit, higher education, government and philanthropic partners, the fund provides financial capital and business assistance to businesses that grow, distribute and sell fresh and healthy food that reaches low-income populations. This effort will increase access to healthy food, improve the health of all Michigan residents, and drive economic development and job creation.

Fair Food Network and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems will co-lead business assistance and pipeline development for the fund. Other core partners include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and fund manager Capital Impact Partners.

St. Clair Farmer Serves Southeast Michigan Farmers’ Markets

Buying local is an important concept for DFFC because we believe a strong food and agriculture economy in Michigan can impact improvements in public health through better access to healthy food for all citizens. And there’s no better way to access fresh food than through shopping at one of many southeast Michigan farmers’ markets. Since it’s fast approaching farmers’ market season, we thought we’d provide you a slice of life from the field.

Sharon Ostrowski owns Sharkar Farms in China, Michigan, which is in St. Clair County. She makes a living through the food she grows to sell at farmers’ markets. She has farmed her whole life, from helping on the family farm when she was young, to managing a 300-acre farm at age 19, to owning the 17-acre farm that she now runs, which services eight southeast Michigan farmers’ markets six days a week in the summer and fall. She grows an assortment of vegetables, including 47 varieties of tomatoes and 167 varieties of herbs.

Does your whole family help on the farm?

Four of my seven kids are involved, running the markets and helping with mechanical repairs on the farm equipment. My husband works four 10s [10-hour shifts] at Ford, so he can help me on Friday.

Where do you sell your produce?

On Tuesdays at Vantage Point Farmers’ Market in Port Huron; on Wednesdays in Lathrup Village; on Thursdays at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital; on Fridays in Dearborn; on Saturdays in Rochester and Port Huron; and on Sundays in Warren, Clawson and New Baltimore.

Also we started a pilot program last year working with Anchor Bay Schools, providing lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and broccoli. It’s going well. The kids aren’t throwing as much out.

How do you believe small farmers like yourself are contributing to a healthy regional food system?

We do more than even the big farmers. We don’t use as much pesticide. I remind my customers that my kids play in these fields. Also, it’s direct. It’s picked one day, and goes out the next. It’s good products at a decent price.

How can small farmers contribute to creating better access to healthy food for marginalized people?

A lot of the smaller markets are not in high rent zones. Even the Royal Oak Beaumont Farmers’ Market isn’t what I consider a high rent zone. Nor is Port Huron.  Customers are not having to pay top dollar. We don’t need a lot of money. We’re not looking to get a yacht; we just want to make a decent living.

What shifts have you seen in farming over the years, in terms of people in southeast Michigan understanding the importance of buying/eating local and supporting local farmers?

There has been a huge push in the buying of local food and a lot more awareness. There are so many more farmers’ markets now too, which isn’t easy for us because we have to go all around.

What can the average Michigan citizen do to support local farmers such as yourself?

Understanding that it takes work to get good food to the table. Brussels sprouts don’t come from a box.

The Michigan Farmers Market Association defines a farmers market as “a public and recurring assembly of farmers or their representatives selling direct-to-consumer food and products which they have produced themselves.” To find a local market near you, try searching the MIFMA website or Detroit Community Markets website.

Detroit Eats: Peaches & Greens

This is the last market profile of the Detroit Eats! photo essay project, which started last July.

“This is a good place to be sellin’ vegetables.”

When you were a kid, you knew the time of day that the ice cream truck would be visiting your street. Eagerly you’d wait for the tinkling sound of the music to arrive on your block, coins squeezed tight in a sweaty fist, waiting to run outside. Now imagine this same truck (minus the catchy jingle), same route right on your street, but replace the drippy, Snoopy-shaped frozen treat with a fresh cucumber.  This is the Peaches & Greens Mobile Truck.

Driving slowly down residential streets, the Mobile Truck sells and delivers fruits and vegetables ice cream truck-style. However, Peaches & Greens is also a permanent brick and mortar building, which makes it different than all of the other Detroit Community Markets. Peaches & Greens is a subsidiary of Central Detroit Christian (CDC), but runs as an independent company. CDC is also the parent organization of the Farm &

“It’s why we are where we are, in a neighborhood,” store manager, Liz Etim says, “because we’re for accessibility.”

Fishery and the Growing Faith garden down the road, which supplies Peaches & Greens with vegetables.

With a newly re-finished storefront and shiny coolers stocked with Michigan-produce, it is clean and inviting to all passersby. The majority of Peaches & Greens customers are walkers.

“We go on the routes like an ice cream truck” – Etim

“It’s why we are where we are, in a neighborhood,” says store manager, Liz Etim, “because we’re for accessibility.”  And if people still cannot get the food, the food will come to the people via Mobile Truck. Deliveries are free on Tuesdays!

Peaches & Greens also employs the Mobile Truck to make scheduled stops at senior centers. I followed the truck to their stop at a senior living community in Gardenview Estates.  Whizzing down the road past McDonalds and Subways, I felt like a fresh food super hero. When we arrived at the Senior Center, we parked in the front, right next to a shiny blue, old-school Chevy with a bobble-head hula girl dancing on the dashboard. I felt like I had gone a few decades back in time.

Inside, I was informed/warned that today was a special visit because the seniors had received special tokens good for $10 worth of produce. I helped Tracey, the Mobile Truck expert, set up the tables. Thankfully she had it down to a quick science of arranging and rearranging until every fruit and vegetable was visible and reachable.

Amidst the mad rush to claim the okra, one customer shows her gratitude for the $10 token: “I’m peaceful. And I’m grateful and thankful that they gave it to me.”

The seniors began to line up. The okra was the first to sell out, followed by nearly everything. A man in the back corner of the room played “Lean On Me” on the piano. He later announced that he had six $10 tokens. I wasn’t sure how he had finagled this, but I wasn’t going to be the one to rat him out.

Once the produce was gone and the seniors were content with their purchases, the Mobile Truck returned back to its home base to await another busy day of delivering groceries.

Many thanks the series author Kelli Bartelotti and Detroit Community Markets for contributing content and images for this project. Detroit Community Markets are neighborhood locations where you can buy fresh, affordable, locally produced food at locations like farmers’ markets and farm stands or through mobile trucks and food box programs. Detroit Community Markets strive to increase access to healthy foods, improve neighborhoods, support local growers and entrepreneurs, and create public spaces where residents can come together.