Detroit Garden

Detroit Voices: A Community Calls Out for Change

No place has more serious food systems challenges than Detroit; more than half of Detroit residents lack access to healthy, fresh food and consequently many suffer from food-related health issues.

Yet, Detroit is also an epicenter of the good food movement with hundreds of neighborhood and school gardens, farmers’ markets and farm stands, and energetic urban farmers sprouting up around the city. Our new video about Fair Food Network’s Strengthening Detroit Voices project illustrates both the challenges facing Detroit citizens and the innovative solutions they are developing to provide healthy food for their community.

Recently, Fair Food Network sponsored a virtual gathering, a “Detroit Telephone Town Hall,” that brought together 7,500 Detroiters–people who are concerned about accessing healthy food for their families. Fifty-eight percent of people polled during the Town Hall said that the biggest issue they face in feeding their family healthy food is the cost.

According to the 2011 U. S. Census, more than 31 percent of Detroit families reported an income below the poverty level and more than 34 percent receive government food assistance. More than half a million residents live in neighborhoods where they must travel twice as far to reach a grocery store as a convenience store, gas station or liquor store, where healthy, fresh food is difficult to find. As a result, they are frequently compelled to purchase low-quality, highly-processed products, often at higher prices than in the suburbs.

Fair Food Network understands the depth of the food problem in Detroit and believes that only through the collective, authentic voices of Detroiters can citizens effect the changes in public policy that will make a difference in their quality of life.

Local community leaders and organizations have identified federal policies that they believe will shrink food deserts and increase access to healthy, fresh foods.  These policies include expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and encouraging USDA to pilot incentive programs to encourage SNAP participants to purchase local fresh produce, like the Double Up Food Bucks Program.

One of our partners, Ponsella Hardaway, leader of the community organization Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), comments:  “Sometimes, people say, ‘What can I do about something so big?’ But if we create a huge network and relationships and conversations about this, I think people can feel more empowered – ‘I do have a voice.’”

Our Strengthening Detroit Voices video illustrates the vital collaboration between citizens and community leaders and organizations to inform public policy at the local, state, and national levels to grow a healthy, sustainable food system for all.

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