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Ready 2 Grow: Creating a healthy food system through media, movement and fun

vegetables food gardenDETROIT — The East Michigan Environmental Action Council’s Ready 2 Grow program will be hosting a variety of workshops this June. Featuring workshops ranging in topic from plant harvesting to media skill shares, the central focus of all the events will be on achieving health through a healthy food system.

As Ready 2 Grow Program Coordinator Lottie Spady states, “We recognize that access to healthy food and education around healthy food choices and nutrition are part of the issue, but if we don’t consider the psychology of choice, the role that food plays in social structure and culture, and the ways in which advertising and media influence attitudes, behaviors and beliefs, we will not create the type of systemic change that will positively impact existing health disparities in children and families.”

The first workshop, Ready to Grow Media, on June 13 will focus on a media skill share. Past classes have focused on how media has been shaped by cultural values and social systems throughout history as well as label reading, where participants dissected the advertising on food products to better understand what the actual ingredients were and how they might conflict with a healthy food system.

The workshop Ready to Grow Movement on June 27 will encourage parents to get moving, de-stress and build positive supportive relationships with each other.

The final workshop, Ready to Grow Family Fun, on June 29 will teach the benefits of sunflowers to the earth. “Sunflowers can aid in remediation of soil; they can pull metals out of the soil,” explains Program Educator Sanaa Nia Joy.

“In Detroit, there are many vacant lots and places where industry waste is part of the landscape. Sunflowers could be planted to beautify and help remediate the soil there.”

Participants will make sunflower butter and take it home after the session, along with sunflower seeds to plant. They will also taste dishes that feature sunflower seeds and sprouts.

All workshops will be held from 6-8 p.m. at The Cass Corridor Commons, located at 4605 Cass Ave. Child care is available with advance notice, and a light, healthy meal will be provided.

In addition, Ready 2 Grow hosts monthly parent/caregiver/educator group meetings, weekly in-school environmental and food justice education classes, gardening, outdoor exercise, nature-based outings, food media literacy and instruction in community-produced media.

“One of the challenges we address in the Ready 2 Grow program is helping children like fresh vegetables,” Joy says. “Through the outdoor classroom on the school grounds, we grow herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables. When children help to grow food, they are more likely to eat fresh, healthy food.”

The hope of the program is that by building a strong community on a foundation of holistic health, community members will find the support they need to become producers within the food system, not just consumers.

“We are creating safe spaces for parents and youth to try new foods, make their own media messages, demystify the farm bill and other food policy, manage daily stressors with tools such as exercise and nourish themselves within framework of justice,” Spady says. “This will ultimately empower participants to co-create solutions to food injustices and take an active role in the long-term health of the community.”

EMEAC is a partner in the Child Health Incubator Research Project (CHIRP), which is supported by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Childhood Obesity Prevention Program.

To learn more about Ready 2 Grow, contact Lottie V. Spady at Lottie@emeac.org or 313.556.1702 ext. 701.

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