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Our Kitchen Table receives grant to expand local food security projects

January 19, 2011

A local grass roots nonprofit working for environmental justice and urban food security, Our Kitchen Table (OKT) has received a $360,000 grant from the The W.K. Kellogg Foundation “to strengthen the capacity of southeast urban neighborhood residents in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to address food and environmental health disparities impacting vulnerable children, families, and individuals by creating resident owned gardens and managed Healthy Food Demonstration Sites.” The grant will extend over a three-year period with the goal of neighborhood residents taking over the work for themselves.

OKT has been addressing environmental justice and food security issues in the Grand Rapids area for the past several years. The grant will expand their

Urban gardeners learn about compost at one of OKT's “Steps to Growing Healthy Urban Food Gardens” workshops last summer.

programs to many more area residents with the hope of making a real and lasting impact on people’s health in Grand Rapids’ urban neighborhoods.

OKT’s objectives for the grant funded project include planting and maintaining 100 neighborhood-based food gardens. OKT focuses on helping individuals and families plant those gardens in their own spaces. Education and training components will teach adults and children how healthy foods help manage both diet related illnesses (diabetes, heart disease and obesity) and environmental health issues (asthma and lead poisoning).

Twenty trained community Urban Fellows/Peer Educators will teach even more community members about food self-reliance, food security and having access to a nutritional neighborhood-based food system. Other objectives include establishing resident owned and managed Healthy Food demonstration sites and training both adults and children how to safely address environmental hazards associated with food gardening.

The project will focus on four Grand Rapids neighborhoods: Eastown, Baxter, SECA and Garfield Park. These neighborhoods have been identified as being at highest risk for food insecurity as well as environmental health issues, including lead poisoning.

In 2010, OKT offered the Grand Rapids community many educational and gardening opportunities including a food summit, food garden walking and bicycle tours and a series on healthy urban food gardening.

Anyone interested in starting a food garden or engaging with the program can contact Lisa Oliver King for more information at lisak1@aol.com.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. miles permalink
    January 19, 2011 4:27 pm

    I’m skeptical about this. The more money non-profits get in grants from the state, the less radical they become.

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    January 19, 2011 4:34 pm

    Miles, I think that is a legitimate concern and one that should be directed at OKT.

  3. Dave permalink
    January 20, 2011 6:35 pm

    Is it a state grant? The article doesn’t say if it is from a private foundation, or gov’t agency, or where the money originates.

  4. stelle permalink
    January 20, 2011 11:18 pm

    Dave, thank you for noticing my inadvertent omission. The grant is from The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. I have corrected the post to include that information.

  5. grant permalink
    January 21, 2011 9:53 pm

    This article was incredibly disappointing. It basically just reads like a press release for OKT and the Kellogg Foundation (in other words, it sounds like it comes straight out of the pages of The G.R. Press).

    Why was this reported so uncritically? In the past GRIID has harshly criticized organizations for taking money from foundations and has critiqued the “non-profit industrial complex.” Why not talk about it in this situation? I’m not sure that there is a right or wrong answer all the time in these situations, but it is a topic that merits discussion. Kudos to the person in the comments who brought it up.

    See for example the GRIID peices “The Non-Profit Industrial Complex in Grand Rapids” and “The Rich are Giving their Money Away” for good examples of the problems with non-profits and foundation money.

    If you read both of those blog posts and then this one, you can’t help but scratch your head and wonder why the same scrutiny wasn’t applied in this case. I can see little to love with the Kellogg Foundation.

  6. stelle permalink
    January 22, 2011 4:35 am

    Grant,
    GRIID will watch this project closely to see if it compromises the integrity of OKT. In the past, OKT has worked hard at being transparent and highly accountable in all of its work. The other GRIID articles cited had the benefit of seeing the outcome of such grant funding where there was some compromise in what the non-profits did. If OKT ends up compromising their commitment to social justice and community, then GRIID will point that out. The difference here is that this was basically an announcement about OKT receiving the grant and its plans for those monies.

  7. grant permalink
    January 23, 2011 3:25 pm

    Stelle,

    Regarding your comment above, I think you are avoiding the issue. In the two GRIID articles that I cited (“The Non-Profit Industrial Complex in Grand Rapids” and “The Rich Are Giving Their Money Away?”), GRIID wasn’t judging the non-profits on their integrity and whether or not they allegedly compromised “their commitment to social justice and community.” The articles did not focus on the benefits/outcomes/negatives of funding. GRIID did not present an analysis of specific grant programs and how they compromised the integrity of non-profits (although one did criticize WMEAC for working with Coke, but that wasn’t done on the basis of evaluating the results of the rain barrel program: instead it critiqued the very idea of working with Coke).

    Rather, those articles advanced a specific and clear critique of the role that foundations (and non-profits) play in regulating and managing social change in order to preserve the status quo. Specifically, the GRIID article “The Rich Are Giving Their Money Away?” questioned where the money foundations have came from and the motivations that a foundation have for giving the money away. So if GRIID is going to be skeptical of foundations, why not ask in this situation: where did the Kellogg Foundation get this money? What kind of business practices (via stock holdings) generate wealth for the foundation (in this case it’s pushing cereal products with GMO ingredients [there is an ongoing campaign targeting Kellogg’s on this issue])? Why might they want to give money away? What could the PR benefits be? How does the foundation work? etc, etc… There were many things that could have been looked at, but instead this was all flowery and uncritical.

    You don’t need to see the end result of a grant to ask those kind of questions and indeed GRIID has asked those kind of questions in the past. Why weren’t they asked in this case? Non-profits in Grand Rapids get grants every day, but you don’t see announcements of that on GRIID. Why now?

    Also, I find it pretty problematic that you are saying that GRIID is going to “watch” the project and be the judge of whether or not Our Kitchen Table compromises their integrity. That sets up a pretty messed up dynamic where GRIID is the judge of what organizations have “integrity” and which ones don’t.

Trackbacks

  1. Our Kitchen Table receives grant to expand local food security projects « Our Kitchen Table
  2. Making Michigan: Our Kitchen Table — Eat Local, West Michigan!

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