Detroit Food Justice Update


Feb 24th, 2011 by Adrienne Marie Brown

Just Feed Detroit!

This is a beautiful time to be alive and alert in Detroit. There is so much happening, and it all intersects. The mayor continues to prioritize outside proposals and plans for how to address the real disparity and resource gaps in the city over those that come from lifelong Detroiters, and while he says he wants to hear from communities, his actions thus far leave community organizations in the dark. But movements are like mushrooms – we grow well in the shadows, underground, making sustenance out of refuse.

So what’s growing?

A vision for a future in Detroit that has as it’s foundation a commitment to relationships, shared principles, and justice. Whether it looks like a new media economy, seniors and young people planting gardens together or teaching each other about the internet, or a radically different approach to how we feed Detroit healthy food, folks are not sitting around waiting for someone to save them, or ask their opinion in an impersonal survey.

As just one example, I am honored to be a part of the Detroit Food Justice Task Force, where we are walking our talk of approaching Detroit as a vibrant city with tons of resources and skills and proposals, rather than a blank canvas to paint our dreams on. Right now we are in the process of documenting the ‘invisible capital‘ [footnote: Chris Rabb, Invisible Capital, 2010] of four neighborhoods in Detroit (48217, 48207, 48215, 48202/48209), each of which has been written off in the rightsizing conversations, and each of which has tons of food heroes – gardeners, farmers, soup kitchen and food pantry workers, and individual citizens feeding their neighbors. Our goal is to help all these folks come together to celebrate the ways they are already caring for their communities, and uplift ways to increase their collective capacity.

Our big strategy? Just feed Detroit.

We are certain that if the majority of people in this city could count on healthy regular food, the impact would be a healthier, more vibrant, creative city. Just think of your own life, and the difference in how you feel, how creative you are, and what you can accomplish when you are eating well and not stressed about food, versus when you are hungry and don’t know where the next meal is coming from. Imagine the solutions and energy this city could have if everyone who lived here had access to good healthy food regularly, knew why it was the best option, and knew that when they invested in that good healthy food they were investing right back into Detroit.

That’s right, we’re thinking about cooperative economics for food systems in Detroit. We don’t have major grocery stores, but we do have plenty of junk food, fast food and processed food in the city to waste our money on, curbing hunger but not really sustaining us. We know how to detoxify soil, grow food, cook food – and we sure know how to eat it! In a city that doesn’t have nearly enough jobs for all the people here, why do we keep spending our money on food shipped in from elsewhere, pouring our money out of the city? We want to redirect those funds into our local economy, while making ourselves healthier. Grow local, eat local, buy local, be local.

In the coming weeks, we will be engaging folks across the city in a series of events called Cook, Eat, Talk, where we do just that. Get together and make food, break bread and talk about food in Detroit. We are excited to strengthen the connections of people who care about feeding Detroit, and we hope to lay the foundation for a different way of thinking about Detroit’s future – the oldest way, as a village raising it’s children. We hope you’ll join us.