Your City, Your Voice. We are listening!

Author: Arielle McInnis-Simoncelli

Let’s start with what (you think) you know: You have been bombarded with negative press about Detroit: lack of access to healthy foods, violence in the city, poverty, and blight. There is no question that there is work to be done, but our goal at Fair Food Network is to ensure that the strengths of the city and its residents are recognized and utilized in order to create a bright future for Detroit.

Where Fair Food Network comes in: We at Fair Food Network understand how difficult it can be to voice your concerns and questions…and then to have them go unanswered. This is why we have designed our Strengthening Detroit Voices initiative to help raise awareness of your most pressing issues about healthy food access in Detroit. With your voice and our partnerships, we will be able to inform public policy about the issues that matter most to you. Together we will grow a healthy, sustainable food system for Detroit.

Strengthening Detroit Voices has already begun to fully engage community leaders, stakeholders and Detroit residents. On November 14, 2012, Fair Food Network held a kickoff luncheon for the initiative to connect with local partners, introduce the mission and policy targets of Strengthening Detroit Voices, and clarify how we will accomplish our goals. The kickoff was a huge success, and Strengthening Detroit Voices now has over 45 partners, including some you might be familiar with:

  • Detroit Urban League
  • FoodLab Detroit
  • Forgotten Harvest
  • Gleaners Community Food Bank
  • Honey Bee Market    
  • The Greening of Detroit    
  • Metro FoodLand
  • MOSES    
  • United Way for Southeastern Michigan
  • Whole Foods Market

Listening in: On December 5, 2012, Fair Food Network held a Telephone Town Hall, creating a virtual space for Detroiters to get involved in a conversation about the barriers they face in accessing healthy foods for themselves and their families. The Telephone Town Hall was moderated by WWJ Newsradio 950’s Vickie Thomas, who facilitated the conversation between participants and guest panelists, including Eric Davis from United Way, Fair Food Network founder Oran Hesterman, and DeWayne Wells of Gleaners.

As a result of the town hall, we found that 58% of participants on the call have issues buying healthy food because of the price while another 22% lacked physical access to grocery stores with healthy foods.

Additionally, 71% had not heard of important programs, such as FFN’s Double Up Food Bucks, doing excellent work on the ground to address issues of inadequate access to healthy food.

We are currently planning a second Telephone Town Hall to raise awareness about Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks Program, through which low-income shoppers are eligible to receive up to $20 in matching funds to purchase Michigan-grown produce when they shop with their SNAP Bridge Cards at participating markets.

For more information about Strengthening Detroit Voices and Double Up Food Bucks, visit http://www.fairfoodnetwork.org/what-we-do.  Follow our progress and participate in the conversation on Facebook (FairFoodNetwork) and Twitter (@FairFoodNetwork).

Guest Blogger Arielle McInnis-Simoncelli is an MPH candidate 2013, University of Michigan School of Public Health. This blog was written as part of her “Effective Public Health Advocacy” course within the Health Management & Policy department at UMSPH.