It’s been a busy six months at the Detroit Food Policy Council.
We have been working to update the city’s food security policy, which was originally adopted in 2008, following two years of hard work driven by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and others who care about food justice and food access issues in the city of Detroit.
It’s important to note that this original work triggered the creation of the Detroit Food Policy Council. With eight years of food work now under our belt, the council decided it was time to re-visit the original policy and garner new community input and perspective.
To give you a framework, the food policy that’s currently in place addresses eight issue areas, has three to nine listed action items under each, and is nine pages in length. It covers food access, food literacy, hunger, economic injustice, urban agriculture and more. The policy is forward thinking and grounded in the true belief that Detroit, while facing many barriers, can have an equitable, sustainable food system.
Since the Detroit Food Policy Council is a member of the Detroit Food & Fitness
Collaborative, it’s not surprising that the policy is aligned with the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative’s mission to make sure all Detroiters, including the most vulnerable children, have access to affordable, healthy locally grown food.
In short, both of our groups were fortunate to have such a great original policy to turn to before the council even began our research and revamping.
Here’s how the revision project has unfolded. After receiving a grant last year to assess and update the policy, we assembled a team of folks to help, including three external consultants from different backgrounds and our own Kibibi Blount-Dorn, the program manager here at Detroit Food Policy Council. The team conducted focus groups and listening sessions, and distributed both online and hard-copy surveys.
Through hard work and attention to detail, our policy update team made sure that all seven districts in Detroit had a voice. We collected 341 surveys and had great turnout at our listening sessions. We sent postcards and distributed flyers to reach people, and we worked with community groups all over the city to help us connect with many different community members. We heard from emergency food providers, working families, urban gardeners, seniors, and folks from many different walks of life.
All in all, we gathered input from around 500 Detroiters. Some of the highlights of this process were our final city-wide listening session on October 31 and our 20-person focus group on September 29, which gathered viewpoints from people who work within the food system.
Right now, we are in the process of further synthesizing all of the data we collected, but we’ve had two important observations early on:
We need to better promote the food work being done in the city so that everyone knows where resources are and how to access them. We were surprised to find out that many people were unaware of the City of Detroit’s policy on food security. We also learned that some of the activities folks expressed an interest in, such as fisheries and aquaponics, are already exist locally.
We need to educate more than ever. People definitely asked for more education around health and wellness.
Internally, we know that we want to carefully track the items in the new policy and create a process for updating it. The policy will help guide our work, and in the short- and long-term improve the food system for families and individuals. Good, locally sourced food contributes to individuals living a healthy life – but it also contributes at a more global level by creating better public health outcomes and thus a stronger city.
I will keep you posted on the policy revisions, and our work with the Detroit City Council, and look forward to sharing more in the upcoming months.