A City of Detroit Policy on Food Security
a Food Secure Detroit"
Food Security can be defined as the condition which exists when all of the members of a community have access, in close proximity,
to adequate amounts of nutritious, culturally appropriate food at all times, from sources that are environmentally sound and
just. This food security policy was developed to affirm the City of Detroit's commitment to nurturing the development of a
food secure city in which all of its citizens are hunger-free, healthy and benefit from the food systems that impact their
lives. This policy also affirms the City of Detroit's commitment to supporting sustainable food systems that provide people
with high quality food, employment, and that also contribute to the long-term well-being of the environment.
policy addresses the following areas:
Current access to quality food in Detroit
Impacts/Effects of an Inadequate Diet
Economic Injustice in the Food System
of Schools and other Public Institutions
This document is organized
by a statement of the issues, followed by actions needed to address those issues. This policy also calls for the formation
of a Detroit Food Policy Council devoted to addressing the issues outlined herein.
Access to Quality Food in Detroit
Access is germane to any discussion about a community's
food security. Access is the availability of quality food within a reasonable distance from where people live. Access also
includes the ease and ability to travel to where quality food is available, as well as the affordability of that food and
its cultural suitability to specific population groups within the community.
In the city of Detroit,
the most accessible food-related establishments are party stores, dollar stores, fast-food restaurants and gas stations. Although
most neighborhoods may have a grocery store within a "reasonable" distance, the quality and selection of food items
is exceedingly lacking. Most city stores have a very limited variety of unprocessed (fresh) vegetables and fruits. Most foods
are canned, boxed, frozen and/or highly processed. Highly processed foods are nutrient-poor, with excessive salt, sugar, and
harmful fats. These stores also lack food alternatives for persons with the chronic conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension
and diabetes, who require low-salt, sugar-free, healthy carbohydrates and healthy fats. These and other chronic health conditions
exist and are growing at alarming rates in the African-American community.
The lack of access to transportation,
an inadequate public transportation system, and safety issues are all factors impacting a person's ability to choose when
and where they shop for food items. Fast-food restaurants, dollar stores, party stores and gas stations are often the closes
and most convenient establishments from which people get food.
With regard to affordability, the cheapest
food items are usually the most heavily processed and unhealthy items. Fresh food items are more expensive, even though they
are often of poor quality. The availability and affordability of local and/or organic vegetables, fruits and meats is practically
non-existent in Detroit, while merely crossing jurisdictional borders gives one that access. In fact, many Detroiters with
transportation and economic means regularly, if not exclusively, shop for food beyond the borders of this city.
Increase the number of culturally appropriate food outlets
within a reasonable distance in all Detroit neighborhoods.
Perform research on the type and location
of food establishments and the extent to which these stores fulfill neighborhoods needs.
with store operators and the Michigan Dept of Agriculture food safety inspection system to ensure that Detroit stores comply
with food safety codes and maintain clean and sanitary food preparation and sales environments within stores.
that food stores carry a variety of fresh foods and food items for persons with special needs and chronic conditions.
Put in place monitoring mechanisms to ensure that food items are safe and fresh.
bus stops and put in place bus lines that give people direct access to grocery stores without the need of a transfer. Assess
the need for "grocery routes" which reflect actual shopping needs (evenings and weekends).
locally grown and organic foods accessible throughout the city by supporting increased production within neighborhoods, neighborhood
farmers markets, and small business assistance to neighborhood stores that agree to participate in a "good neighbor program"
in which they agree to sell more locally grown fresh and healthy foods, do not sell alcohol and tobacco to minors, and negotiate
other mutual benefits with neighborhood organizations that can appropriately represent neighborhood desires.
distribution of genetically modified foods (GMO)'s in the City of Detroit.
Hunger and Malnutrition
The ability to sustain one's life through eating adequate and healthy foods is the most basic of all human
rights. The City of Detroit should be committed to abolishing hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition. According to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, an estimated 400,000 households in Michigan live with hunger or the threat of hunger. With
thousands of vulnerable persons and families within the city finding that their resources are not enough to cover rent, utilities,
medicine, clothes and other basic necessities, one could guess that a substantial number of the hungry live in Detroit.
The Director of the WIC program in Detroit writes that the program services approximately 65,000 residents
per year; seventy-five percent are infants and children up to five years old. Year 2000 census data indicated that 12% of
children had low birth weight, 20-26% of the children were anemic, and 10% were overweight. A recent pediatrician's report
documented that "even mild to moderate under-nutrition in young children is linked to problems that last throughout the
While Federal programs, such as food stamps and WIC have helped to alleviate the most
severe forms of hunger, they haven't adequately impacted food security. As well, the elderly population suffers from hunger
and malnutrition due to isolation, lack of access to stores, inability to prepare nutritious meals, illness, general poor
health and cognitive challenges.
Institute and support community self-help projects that address both hunger and malnutrition.
and increase community food banks, as well as information about and access to them.
and other resources that support programs to alleviate hunger and malnutrition, especially to the most vulnerable of the population.
Advocate for increased availability of state issued food benefits to eligible recipients and educate community
residents about the role and importance of food stamps as the society's commitment to meeting basic needs of fellow citizens
who are ill-served by the marketplace.
Encourage and work with faith-based institutions to do extensive
out-reach and ensure that the food needs of young families and the elderly are met.
Educate the community
and families about the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks associated with infant formulas.
of an Inadequate Diet
Recent research suggests that many of Detroit's children are consuming
"foods" which do not promote optimal health. The study indicated that many children are getting energy primarily
from powdered fruit flavored drinks. Children who do not have an adequate diet perform poorly in school because they are absent
more due to illness, have shorter attention spans, retain less, and often exhibit inappropriate behaviors.
too many children and adults are overweight or obese and as a result suffer from poor self-esteem, lack of energy, social
challenges and various health problems. Obesity should be of major concern in the city of Detroit. Clearly, at the heart of
efforts to address obesity must be the understanding that this is a cultural phenomenon that is deep rooted in the habits
that have been developed by post World War II generations of the American populace and federal policies that greatly subsidize
less healthy processed foods making them abundant and cheap over fresh produce.
The movement towards
convenience slowly led families away from the preparation of fresh foods that sustained health and wellness, to pre-packaged,
instant foods that reduced the time spent in kitchens, but compromised nutrition. That downward spiral has continued with
the proliferation of "fast food" restaurants throughout the city of Detroit. Many families get significant percentages
of their food from such establishments. Research has shown that the fat contained in burgers and fries contribute significantly
to obesity in children and adults. The tendency of those establishments to "supersize" their product has led to
over-consumption, and again contributes to obesity and poor health.
Many Detroiters suffer from illnesses
that could be prevented or controlled by improved eating habits including hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. It has
been suggested that certain cancers may be caused by nitrates and nitrites in processing meats that are used frequently in
the African-American community such as smoked meats, bacon, sausage and lunch meat. African American communities also face
higher risk from diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, and other diet-related illnesses.
The elderly, whose
health is often more fragile than young and middle-aged people, are even more adversely impacted by poor diet and nutrition.
Poor diet accelerates the aging process, contributing to degeneration of internal organs and mental capacity.
is dynamic, and it can't be created or altered by individuals. Creating culture is a collective venture. Impacting the lifestyle
habits that contribute to obesity and poor health will require the commitment of the City of Detroit and a broad cross-section
of the institutions, families and individual members of our communities.
Conduct research specific to the population of the city of Detroit to quantify
rates of malnourished, overweight and obese children and adults, as well as rates of diet-related diseases and dental problems
of youth. Set in place mechanisms to track or monitor the rates over time.
Educate the public and policy-makers
on this issue to bring attention to the scope of the issue and the immediacy needed in seeking solutions.
and address cultural barriers to improving eating habits.
Provide and promote opportunities for shared
meal preparations at Community Kitchens, and growing more fresh fruits and vegetables in backyards and within neighborhoods.
Citizen Education/Food Literacy
healthy food choices and easy access to those stores and markets which offer those choices is but one step towards impacting
the health of our community through the foods we eat. How to select healthy choices, understand food labels and ingredients,
and culturally appealing healthy methods of food preparation are essential as well. It is also important that our community
understands the connection between what they eat and dealing with the health issues faced by so many. There exist a need for
youth and adults to be able to unpack and counter the marketing messages of the mainstream food system that creates a disproportionate
"toxic food environment" with billboards and other forms of marketing in poor communities and communities of color.
education through the City of Detroit Health and Wellness Promotion Department, schools, churches and appropriate agencies
on healthy food choices and culturally appropriate food preparation.
Oppose especially marketing of
sugar-, fat- and salt-laden food and beverages to kids and in schools and other youth-oriented environments.
education on food choices and preparation as related to specific conditions and diseases prevalent in our community such as
high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, allergies and cancer.
Encourage grocery stores,
Eastern Market and food markets to offer healthy recipes and healthy food preparation demonstrations, and sponsor educational
sessions and food preparation classes.
Educate community, parents, and youth about and oppose contracts
with soda manufacturers in schools.
Economic Injustice within the Food Systems
There exist two grocery stores owned and or operated by African Americans in Detroit. It is unknown
whether any food wholesalers, farmers, distributors or food processing facilities providing food for the city of Detroit are
owned, operated, or even hire Detroiters, specifically African-Americans; or if any of the food products consumed in our community
were developed by people from our community. Aside from cashiers, baggers, stock persons and a few butchers, Detroiters, specifically
African-Americans are absent from the food system. Our primary and predominant role is that of consumer.
majority population must be represented at all levels and in all aspects of the food system. Having an economic/agricultural
safety net to support the most vulnerable in our community should be included in our goals. Redefining wealth and prosperity
within our social relationships and spiritual values will be a major step towards ensuring economic justice.
Identify and eliminate barriers to African-American
participation and ownership in all aspects of the food system.
Explore providing employment and re-distribution
of wealth through cooperative community ownership.
Convene dialogues and create partnerships with local
universities and national organizations advocating for African-American communities to develop entrepreneurship and low-cost
loan programs which encourage African American entrepreneurship.
Hold those accountable within the food
system that profit from Detroiters to integrate Detroiters into their operations at all levels.
frameworks for providing business incentives (such as tax incentives, small business loans, etc.) so that businesses that
receive public subsidies return maximal benefits to the surrounding community in terms of healthy food access, local employment
and other forms of community responsiveness. Such frameworks should be developed in collaboration with community organizations
and residents. Incentives should support stores development and improvement in currently underserved neighborhoods.
Detroit has a history of gardening and farming
lots that goes back decades. African-Americans, who left southern states to provide for their families through factory jobs
in the Detroit area, brought with them their connection to the land and their knowledge of how to grow vegetables and flowers.
They knew how to preserve food, as well. Mayor Coleman A. Young started the Farm-A-Lot program in the 1970s which allowed
residents to obtain a permit to farm vacant lots in their neighborhoods. The program provided seeds, seedlings and tilling
of the land. Today, there is an urban agriculture movement in Detroit that is recognized throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Three farms currently exist within the city, as well as over 100 community and school gardens as well as hundreds of family
gardens. There are also extensive training programs and support for urban agriculture ranging from bio-intensive growing methods
to building a solar passive greenhouse.
Detroiters recognize that the value of the vacant land in the
city goes beyond the construction of a structure. Residents have turned "abandoned" lots into productive agricultural
resources. Mini farmers markets are springing up citywide providing Detroiters with fresh, organic food grown right in the
neighborhood. Urban agriculture should be recognized as an essential contributor to the local food system. It ensures a ready
supply of nutritious, high quality vegetables and fruits. The entry costs associated with intensive food production on small
urban farms in a cooperative environment is much lower and accessible than the current trend of mega farms. Urban growers
stand to benefit from increased opportunities to market local products. The potential market for local value-added products
makes urban agriculture even more attractive as a local economic development tool.
Community, school and home gardens and mini-farms should be protected and supported
through local, state and federal legislation.
The City of Detroit should support the efforts of the
Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and others to identify and turn into production, multiple acres of City land
on a long term lease with an option to purchase.
Update city codes and laws to allow urban agriculture,
food production, and farmers markets on a neighborhood scale.
The City should acknowledge the importance
of community gardens and protect them as resources that will not be taken over for other types of development.
City of Detroit should provide resources and equipment for communities, schools and urban farms such as tractors, tools, seeds,
topsoil, compost, fencing and access to water.
Identify and model other State programs that support
small urban farms and help absorb the costs associated with food production, marketing and organic certification.
initiatives to support the marketing and distribution of locally grown products to schools and creation of school gardens
should be explored and encouraged.
Wherever possible, produce from local school gardens should be used
in the preparation of school meals.
Encourage large public institutions such as Wayne State University,
local hospitals, and large employers to source their cafeterias from local growers.
of Schools and other Public Institutions
Schools and other institutions such as churches,
community associations, social service agencies, nursing homes, homeless shelters and missions, hospitals, home daycare centers,
and before and after school programs can have major impact on the dietary habits and health of the community. That impact
can be made by purposefully educating the community as well as intentionally making healthy food options a priority. These
institutions are possibly the most direct ways to reach the greatest number of people. As well, the growing nationwide interest
in locally grown organic foods and value-added food products should be considered as an economic opportunity as it becomes
necessary and is fitting that Detroiters seek independent employment. Our community should also become the suppliers of healthy
food choices to the institutions within our community.
Many school related groups have traditionally
relied on candy sales to raise funds for parent groups, clubs and athletic teams. Other fundraising options should be explored
that do not promote excessive consumption of processed sugars.
Students attending Detroit schools should
have the opportunity to plant, tend and harvest foods in school gardens. Students working in school gardens eat more fresh
fruits and vegetables than those who do not. Many schools across the nation are realizing that farm-fresh produce is superior
to canned and frozen foods. They are also realizing that supporting local or regional farmers helps to sustain local and regional
food systems. When children have a greater understanding of where foods come from, they generally develop a greater appreciation
for those foods, and are more willing to try food choices that may not be considered popular.
and other public institutions have the responsibility of educating the citizens of the City of Detroit about health and wellness.
Newsletters, meetings, and other gatherings should regularly feature information about diet, exercise and other components
of health and wellness.
Block clubs, community associations and churches should be encouraged to partner
with the City of Detroit to develop a network of community gardens. These gardens will increase the amount of fresh, affordable,
nutritious food available to Detroiters, will promote community building and intergeneration communication and will help to
improve the city's aesthetics and air quality. Additionally, publicly owned land should be made available whenever possible
to develop community gardens.
and other public institutions should encourage young people to pursue careers in agriculture, aquaculture, animal husbandry,
bee-keeping and other food related fields, so as to reduce the dependency of Detroiters on others for food.
and other public institutions should eliminate soda pop, candy, gum, and "foods" with high sugar content, artificial
preservatives, and artificial dyes from vending machines. They should be replaced with high-quality snacks and beverages that
promote health and wellness such as fruit, nuts, granola bars, wholegrain chips, 100% juices and water.
should be encouraged to develop food curriculum for pre-K through 12th grade and beyond. Curriculum could include aspects
of production, processing, healthy eating, and recycling and composting.
Every school should have a
school garden that can provide food for their lunches.
Schools should require school lunch programs
to incorporate fresh local and regional foods and develop relationships with those farmers who can provide educational opportunities
Encourage the formation of health ministries in churches that includes a focus on developing
healthy dietary habits.
Encourage churches to offer healthy choices at church functions, and incorporate
church-sponsored gardens and healthy food preparation information as part of any food banks or programs.
A food related emergency may involve the unintentional or deliberate contamination,
or sudden loss of access to food. A food emergency could occur at any point in the food system from farm to table and may
be the result of natural disasters, human error or intentional threat. Any food emergency must be quickly identified followed
by a well-coordinated and communicated response. That response should include pre-established lines of communication, alternate
food and water supplies and delivery systems, as well as close coordination with local, State and Federal emergency responders.
A food emergency plan,
that includes strategies for prevention of food emergencies, for the City of Detroit that is communicated and made available
to the public.
Coordination among church and community organizations, elected officials and other community
leaders, law enforcement, schools, churches and other institutions, hospitals and other medical facilities for dissemination
of information and training as first responders in case of a serious event or situation.
of adequate food reserves in case of an emergency.