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.