Fair Food Detroit

Supporting Community Food Systems

Food plays a significant role in the overall vitality of a community and its residents. The quality, accessibility, and affordability of food are critical measurements of a community’s sustainability. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s underserved communities, including those found in Southeast Michigan, suffer from a broken food system where the lack of healthy food access is endemic, and food injustice prevails.

The Situation

  • Michigan has been one of the states hardest hit by the country’s recent economic recession, with Detroit experiencing a 16.7% unemployment rate.
  • The poverty rate in Michigan is 14.4%; in Wayne county, where Detroit is located, the rate is 20.5%.
  • 1.75 million Michigan residents receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
  • In Detroit, over 500,000 residents live in areas with limited or no access to nutritious food options.

The Opportunity

Fair Food Network is focused on helping residents of Detroit benefit from a coordinated network of local and national organizations and leaders engaged in the sustainable food justice movement. The goals:

  • Help transform the city’s landscape to one that focuses on community-based food systems.
  • Create healthier environments for children and families in the city.
  • Create new economic opportunities for food-related businesses.

Although Michigan has been hit by the country’s economic recession, Detroit has a lot of innovative community food systems activity to build upon. In fact, Detroit has become a model for urban agriculture initiatives with three full-time urban farms and more than 1,000 community and backyard gardens supported by committed organizations that have organized residents to take back control of their food.

Fair Food Detroit: Building an Equitable Food System in Detroit

Fair Food Detroit is a multi-year program that enables FFN to work collaboratively with community organizations and funders in Detroit and Southeast Michigan to create increased access to healthy and sustainably grown food for residents while also supporting local agriculture and food systems.

Through multiple initiatives, Fair Food Detroit aims to stimulate a wide range of activities that will benefit the residents of Detroit and contribute to a new approach to food access and food justice. Our objectives include:

  • Incentivize fresh food purchases at farmers markets and neighborhood groceries by matching federal food assistance benefits.
  • Provide networking, collaboration, capacity building, and leadership development opportunities for organizations working to advance the food justice agenda.
  • Partner with existing youth development agencies on healthy food education and promoting food as fuel for a healthy, active life.
  • Guide local and national funders on providing seed capital to nonprofits working to begin or sustain community-based food projects.

With our multi-faceted initiative, we intend to create a model to:

  • Inform public policy.
  • Assess, articulate, and make available best practices for a food justice agenda.
  • Leverage public/private resources to support the work of local communities.

Our Progress

To date, Fair Food Network is:

  • Increasing access to healthy, fresh, and sustainably grown food by low-income families through the launch of the Double Up Food Bucks project in Southeast Michigan.
  • Participating in the Green Ribbon Collaborative, which includes Eastern Market, Gleaners Community Food Bank, and the Greening of Detroit. This collaborative serves as a resource for government, foundations, and agencies in and around Detroit who are seeking information about local food systems activities.
  • Participating in the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative (DFFC), where we are leading public policy efforts, specifically as they relate to the re-authorization of the federal Farm Bill in 2012. In this role we are providing workshops, materials, and access to policy experts for community leaders and residents to learn about the Farm Bill’s impact on their daily lives.
  • Partnering with other nonprofits on alternative distribution strategies to get fresh food into communities with limited access.
  • Developing an innovative learning opportunity for entrepreneurs and nonprofits to explore social enterprise as a way to generate revenue through healthy food products and services.
  • Working with local partners to create an economic development model with sustainable food systems at the center.