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Local Group kicks off Food Diversity Project

August 6, 2009

The Grand Rapids-based organization Our Kitchen Table (OKT) held an event on Tuesday, August 4 to kick off their new Food Diversity Project. GRIID intern Sheri Munsell did a short interview with OKT organizer Lisa Oliver King.

After the OKT presentation in the community garden next to the Southeast Community Association (SECA), people had the opportunity to hear presentation from Clinton Boyd with the Sustainable Research Group. Clinton provided the aufience with some data on lead and mercury poisoning in Kent County. He stated that people who grow gardens should have their soil test first to see if there are any contaminants in the soil before they grow food. People should also think about where they plant their gardens, since gardens closer to road, particularly busy roads, will be at greater risk of contamination.

Malik K. Yakin with the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network was the keynote speaker for the event. He discussed the reality that Detroit residents face with over 100,000 vacant lots in the city, poverty and institutional racism. He also said that all of the major food grocery chains have left Detroit city proper, so most people are limited to where they can buy food, which means that there are less healthy food items available to many Detroit residents.

It is within this context that the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network was born. This organization has been able to acquire land in one of the Detroit parks to begin a small farm project. People are learning how to grow food, they are creating compost and providing some employment for youth.

In addition, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network has helped begin 200 community gardens in the city, as well as 40 school-based gardens. However, they are not just interested in promoting urban agriculture, the organization wants food justice. Recently they were able to get the City of Detroit to pass an impressive  Food Security Policy, a policy, which could be a model for other communities to adopt if they are serious about sustainability.

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