Food insecurity is a reality for many of the families across North America, including Detroit. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially for young children, can be fundamental for long term health. When finding fresh produce is difficult or prohibitively expensive, families may have no options, as food pantries can’t always stock these items for lack of storage facilities.
Urban farms are changing that. By using vacant lots of land, sustainable sources of fresh, organic produce is readily available to that community. Detroit also has many Farmer’s Markets where this produce is sold; Northwest Detroit Farmers Market, Oakland Avenue Farmers Market, Brightmoor Artisans Market and Eastern Market to name a few. Most are open seasonally spring to fall, but some, like Eastern Market, are open year round, made possible by greenhouses.
But how do these farms work? Most of them are volunteer run with one or two full time staff. They vary in size from 1-7 acres and are spread across town in vacant lots and parks. This includes places where there were uninhabitable buildings that would be costly to remove. The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is using the foundation of a home to create a catchment pool of rainwater to irrigate the farm. Groves of fruit trees can be planted among rubble, eliminating the need for large clearing operations. The produce grown is typically distributed to the volunteers, sold at markets, sold to local restaurants, and to families through pay what you can models, with any extra donated to food pantries like Forgotten Harvest.
But these urban farms don’t only produce food. They are also training grounds for youth and adults to learn valuable skills and gain job experience. The Earthworks farm, a program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, offers an intensive 9 month program in management, planning and daily running of a farm for those that want to start their own urban farm or find employment in the agriculture sector. With leafy greens, fruits, vegetables and an apiary they are able to provide a wide range of training and experience.
The D-Town farm, run by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, is invested in educating youth about the food system; environmental awareness, importance of healthy eating and food justice. They have an ongoing lecture series called “What’s for Dinner?” that dives deep into food system issues.
While farms are on the front line of creating a sustainable food system, others are working in the wider communities to create a thriving city. After emerging from bankruptcy and the loss of 60% of the city’s original population, Detroit has been in a state of disrepair. An organization called Greening of Detroit is working to undo this damage, and the additional damage caused by the Dutch Elm Disease that killed over 500,000 trees. They are planting trees, creating and maintaining green spaces and providing job training.
As Detroit works to become greener and sustainable, organizations like Forgotten Harvest continue to fight hunger and food waste. They pick up fresh and prepared food from grocery stores, restaurants, caterers, farmers and markets and distribute it as is or use it to cook meals for a soup kitchen. They were able to serve 45 million meals last year.
With only 10 grocery stores for every 100,000 people vs 40 per 100,000 in similar cities, there is less options and longer travel times required to get those necessary items. Here the Flashfoodbox provides a unique opportunity. It is equivalent or cheaper than major grocery store prices, while including delivery and convenience. It’s also a massive plus to the environment as the food is surplus or aesthetically displeasing and would have ended in the landfill.
We're so thrilled to join the Detroit community along side such amazing initiatives!