Who has access to fresh, healthy food? Who doesn’t?

Where does our food come from? Who is growing it? Processing it? What’s in it?

Why do some people have an abundance of food and others go hungry?

These are just a few of the questions that the food justice movement seeks to answer. And, while food systems are flawed across the country, something exciting is happening in Detroit, the benefits of which we are only beginning to see.

A local food justice movement has emerged and is actively seeking innovative solutions to food challenges and injustices in Detroit. And it’s a movement that continues to grow as awareness spreads, because once people begin to see the magnitude of the problem, often they can’t help but care.

This was the case for Do it for Detroit (Di4D), a program developed by the Jewish Federation’s NEXTGen Detroit in 2013 as part of their mission to be the hub of a young, vibrant Jewish Detroit.

“Do it for Detroit was a response to the young Jewish adults of Metro Detroit wanting to be a part of positive changes in the city,” said Stefanie Tuzman, NEXTGen Detroit Director. “The NEXTGen Detroit community is passionate about social justice issues, and Do it for Detroit allows us to connect our constituency to amazing organizations tackling some of Detroit’s most complex social justice issues.”

In the past, Di4D hosted micro-grant competitions focused on various areas of social justice: food, education and the environment. But for the last three events, Di4D has partnered with Yad Ezra and Repair the World to exclusively focus on food justice.

A response to hunger

“Participating in this effort, which addresses food insecurity and food justice issues, is very important to Yad Ezra’s leadership,” said Lea Luger, Executive Director of Yad Ezra. “Though there has been some economic recovery, Yad Ezra continues to serve approximately 3,000 food insecure individuals every month. Any opportunity to highlight local hunger relief efforts is definitely worthy of our support.”

New additions to the Di4D event this year include an evening farmers’ market and food justice fair with a variety of area food-centered non-profits selling their locally grown produce and value-added products including Keep Growing Detroit, Brightmoor Artisans Community Kitchen, Brightmoor Youth Garden, Brilliant Brine, Green Things Farm and Hazon. There also will be informational booths hosted by organizations supporting food justice in the community so that attendees can learn more and discover ways to get involved.

“All of the partners wanted to reinvigorate Do it for Detroit to educate our audience about food justice issues in Detroit while also having a fun evening in the city,” said Judy Lansky of NEXTGen Detroit. “The micro-grant competition is still the heart of the event and will continue to be, but with the new additions of the farmers’ market and yummy food, we hope to attract even more people to this phenomenal, do-good event.”

“Everyone is welcome to come out to Do it for Detroit,” said Rachel Klein, Repair the World fellow. “We hope folks of all ages, from the city and from the suburbs, come out to see first-hand some of the exciting things happening in the world of food justice in Detroit.”

The people, the places, the initiatives: Meet the Di4D Finalists

In this year’s competition, three finalists with a focus on alleviating hunger and promoting locally grown affordable and nutritious food will vie for micro-grants of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 generously funded by the William and Audrey Farber Family Foundation.

The Detroit African Women’s Coalition for Liberated Land, Fireweed Universe City and Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (D-Town Farm) will each pitch their initiatives to the live audience. Event attendees will be asked to make a $5 donation which will be added to the micro-grant awards, divvied up amongst the finalists.

Detroit African Women’s Coalition for Liberated Land is a partnership of African woman across the city pooling funds to purchase vacant land and then cultivate fruit trees, herbs and edible native plants and vegetables that will be freely available to the community. The initiative will launch in the Jefferson Chalmers Neighborhood of Detroit, on the southeast side of the city.

Detroit African Women’s Coalition for Liberated Land
Detroit African Women’s Coalition for Liberated Land

The goals: to purchase vacant land from the Landbank through the community Partnership program and to purchase fruit tree saplings and herbs for planting. To engage and educate Black women, who are under-represented in the food movement in Detroit.

D-Town Farm, located on Outer Drive in Rouge Park, is an initiative of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) working to build self-reliance, food security and justice in Detroit’s Black community by influencing public policy, engaging in urban agriculture, promoting healthy eating, encouraging cooperative buying and directing youth towards careers in food.

D-Town Farms
D-Town Farms

The goal:  to build capacity in the D-Town Farm Apiary operation through the purchase of 6×10-foot Tuff Shed structure to be used as a “honey-house.”

Fireweed Universe City is described as an “unintentional community” taking root in a neighborhood known as Chaldean Town or Grixdale Farm, just south of 7 Mile and Woodward. Established as a 501c(3) non-profit in August of 2014, Fireweed Universe City  works with Detroit residents, volunteers and visitors from all over the word to provide fresh organic produce through community gardening. Residents maintain a community park and bike repair shop and host weekly potlucks open to all.

Fireweed Universe City
Fireweed Universe City

The goal: to provide as much fresh food to as many people as possible, Firewood plans to use the grant funding to build a greenhouse and expand the garden to eight city lots, striving for small farm-scale production.

Bring friends, bring your appetite

Everyone in attendance gets a vote. So get ready to root for your favorite urban farming team and let your voice be heard. Admission to Di4D is free, but a $5 donation is encouraged. Attendees will enjoy a cash bar and kosher food options.