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.

Fresh Food Share Continues to Supply Thousands with Low-Cost Produce

Gleaners Community Food Bank’s Fresh Food Share program, supported by the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative, delivers boxes of fresh produce at an affordable price to community sites for families living in low-income neighborhoods where healthy, unprocessed food is not easy to come by.

The program supplies low-cost boxes (“shares”) of fresh food to around 250 households each month.

Fresh Food Share members pre-order a box of produce at their local community sites and later pick it up. The fresh food is bought at wholesale prices from local farmers, including Detroit farmers. The boxes are available for monthly pickup at multiple neighborhood locations around the city; during any given month, Fresh Food Share delivers to approximately 24 sites. There are currently 36 sites, but not every site orders monthly, particularly schools who may be closed during the summer and holiday months.

Fresh Food Share is a community food program that provides an easy, affordable way for Detroit residents to get fresh food, increase their nutritional knowledge, and support local farmers. It also strives to achieve a measure of financial sustainability in its design: the cost of the shares cycles back in to support the logistics of running the program.

Another perk, Fresh Food Share gives Double Up Food Bucks tokens when customers use their SNAP dollars to purchase their shares, and customers can use the tokens to pay for the part of their box that is Michigan grown. This comprises almost all of the box during the growing season.

American Indian Health and Family Services, Carver S.T.E.M. Academy, Woodbridge Community Youth Center, and Piquette Square are among the distribution sites.

American Indian Health and Family Services operates a free medical clinic for those without insurance and has a variety of health education and referral programs in southwest Detroit; offering Fresh Food Share to the people it serves is fitting.

“We place an emphasis on healthy eating in all our programs and have a lot of clients who don’t have access to fresh produce, either because they are living in areas that are food deserts, or they don’t have good transportation,” says Nina Eusani, maternal and child nurse at AIHFS.

“Having fresh produce available at wholesale prices is great for many of our clients who are low-income and need access to affordable produce.”

AIHFS and other site partners appreciate Fresh Food Share because it helps their clients while not requiring a big investment of time.

“It’s a great opportunity for community members, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of work on our end,” says Nina. “It’s so great to have someone create that infrastructure so that we don’t have to.”

For more information about Fresh Food Share click here.

Food & Community Gathering, Detroit Style

The bi-annual Food & Community Gathering, held May 20-22, was meaningful for a number of reasons, but for us Detroiters, it was extra special because it was hosted here in the “D,” our hometown, at the Marriott at the Renaissance Center. Amongst the 600 attendees from around the world, Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative representation was strong.

The three-day event, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, kicked off Detroit style with music and song – and even a rap about compost performed by iconic Detroit composter, Kadiri Sennefer of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.  Following that was Movement in Action: The Detroit Good Food Experience, a panel of current and emerging food leaders who highlighted the thriving cross-sector partnerships that are needed to move the work forward.

DFFC members presenting, leading, and attending included Betti Wiggins and Zaundra Wimberley from Detroit Public Schools Office of School Nutrition, Kathryn Savoie, Ecology Center; Dan Carmody, Fiona Ruddy and Devita Davison, Eastern Market Corporation; Ashley Atkinson and Jamii Tata, Keep Growing Detroit; Jerry Ann Hebron, Mimi Pledl and Cheryl Simon, Detroit Food Policy Council; Linda Campbell and Myra Lee of the Equitable Detroit Coalition; Meredith Freeman and Oran Hesterman, Fair Food Network; myself, as project director of DFFC, and many others.

So, why Detroit? According to Linda Jo Doctor, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Detroit was chosen as the host city because of the extraordinary work happening here to transform the food system, along with the rich legacy of urban gardens that created a foundation for the vibrant food work happening today.

Doctor mentions progressive activities happening in Detroit – like school food work, multi-sector partnerships, networks of urban farmers, community farmers markets, and food entrepreneurs – as setting the pace.

“Having the Food & Community Gathering here in Detroit was an opportunity for many people across the country to learn more about the work happening here,” says Doctor. “The food movement in Detroit is a model for the nation.”

As Detroit served as host, Detroiters had a strong participatory presence too.

Along with leading Learning Circles (break-out sessions), Detroiters planned and hosted six off-site Knowledge-Sharing Workshops, which were held around the city at locations like Oakland Community Garden, Detroit Kitchen Connect at St. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church, Detroit Eastern Market, Drew Middle School, CHASS Center, and D-Town Farm.

The conference, with a theme “Harvesting Change,” brought together advocates, farmers, school food workers, public officials, food entrepreneurs, academics, and others from around the nation, all invested in continuing to build the Good Food Movement.

The movement works to increase access to food that is affordable, healthy, green, and fair so that children, families, and communities have the opportunity to thrive. That, along with efforts to increase physical activity and safe places to play and exercise, is the purpose of the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative.

For those reasons, we were honored and delighted to host and participate in the 2014 Food & Community Gathering. For a full recap of the three-day gathering click here.

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 dadams@warrenconner.org.