Can Whole Foods Coexist with the Homegrown Food Movement?
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Folks were also being fed by their churches, their neighbors, their schools and their grandmothers.
Almost everyone who came had a relationship to the land and what could grow in it, if not directly, then in their families. Which makes sense in a city that softly calls itself upsouth because so many people migrated north during and after slavery with their farming and gardening skills intact.
I realized I was in a community with the children and grandchildren of individuals who responded to freedom, hunger and an absence of jobs by planting tomatoes and romaine and potatoes and green beans in their yards.
I was in a community that was so grateful for the abundance of growers and food providers, that when we started to hear rumors that Whole Foods was thinking about coming to Detroit, we weren’t interested. We wanted to support our own local folks through markets, learn together how to build small businesses to move this produce up from the soil and onto our tables.
I also realized that though it is clearer in Detroit, this way of seeing food justice work applies no matter where I am. In every community there are people who are feeding their communities, growing food, teaching nutrition, growing a desire for health and investing in small local business that support food sovereignty. Detroit has changed the way I see the world of food.
Whole Foods has broken ground a few blocks from my house and I am sure some folks will shop there. I am rooting for the community advisory committee that is working to ensure that Whole Foods attends to issues such as buying from local growers, the well-being of other food providers such as Goodwell's, and hiring Detroiters to construct and work in the store. They are hoping to set an example of how the corporate world can approach the community, respecting and include their wisdom, skills and input, bringing people who are or will be most affected to the table of planning and decision making, so that not only this Whole Foods, but all Whole Foods, become a part of community success rather than a wrecking ball to local food justice infrastructure.
That’s how Detroit does it.
But me personally? I’ll be biking to Eastern Market for my Grown in Detroit products, stopping by Goodwell’s for pantry goods, and loving this city as it continues to teach me justice.