Can Whole Foods Coexist with the Homegrown Food Movement?
Continued from previous page
Perhaps most importantly, I learned of the work of Lottie Spady, who worked with In Our Own Backyard and East MI Environmental Action Council , connecting the right to have local food with the right to create local media, with splashes of science fiction all over it.
They taught me about food justice through what they embodied. Food justice meant it was local, it was healthy, it was part of a cycle of relating to the land and our bodies, it was grown by people who owned the land and had power over what happened on it, and loved what they were doing. It was biodiverse and it created a cycle of resources into the community.
And because Detroit had been in economic crisis for about 30 years, during which over half the city population migrated to find opportunity in other places (sound familiar?), food justice meant that folks were growing their food in their backyards and reclaiming abandoned lots for small farms.
It meant that the face of urban agriculture in Detroit was working-class Detroiters, the majority of them black.
It meant that the best way to resist, to fight, to build movement, was to literally grow.
In 2009, people at a national level started to look at Detroit as a space to invest and build things. One thing people noticed was the urban agricultural movement here. The local community came together to respond to this interest, to articulate that there was movement here that could be engaged collectively. Out of this was born the Detroit Food Justice Task Force, which quickly became bigger than a circle of folks responding to national interest.
In 2010, I was hired to facilitate the Detroit Food Justice Task Force for a year. As I worked with an amazing team to help hold the space for this task force to grow, it was like going through a graduate school program on how food justice truly touches every aspect of our lives.
I got to work with Charity Hicks, a lifelong Detroiter who helped write the Detroit Food Policy , and Gregg Newsom who, along with his wife Angela, started People's Kitchen to make healthy local food available for free or low-cost.
I met growers, community organizers, technology hackers, radical nuns, environmentalists, teachers, social workers, national movement builders, city planners, food policy experts, and more than anything else, people who liked to eat good healthy food. Working with the team and the task force, it quickly became apparent that the food justice movement was huge in Detroit, but not necessarily self-aware.
So, instead of developing a series of workshops to teach the community about healthy local food justice stuff, we decided to partner with local (read neighborhood) institutions to co-create events for the community to cook together, eat together and begin to see each other as a network of people breaking new ground around the relationship of food and urban community.
The events were spectacular, with communities sharing what they loved about food in their communities, who in their neighborhood made sure they ate, where they got their food from, and where the groceries, gardens and farms were in their neighborhoods.
Food sources ranged from liquor stores to gas stations to Coney Islands (Detroit’s answer to diners), with a few folks loving on the Grown in Detroit stand at Eastern Market, where black youth and adult allies sell kale, broccoli, radishes, collards, cucumbers, pickles, lettuce, garlic, turnips and beets all grown within a mile of the heart of the city. A number of people also spoke lovingly of Goodwell’s, a black-owned health food store in the Cass Corridor neighborhood, which sells a growing assortment of vegan and vegetarian items, and has recently added bulk teas and spices.