Youth participants bring spirit to Detroit Food 2014
Each year the Detroit Food Summit works to include youth in the discussion on building a stronger local food system in Detroit. This year there was a special focus on youth involvement. One hundred elementary, middle and high schools students from across the city participated in Detroit Food 2014: Race to Good Food held at Focus: HOPE Conference Center April 3 and 4.
On April 3 students started the day with a mixer to help them get to know each other. They played people bingo and had to talk to students from other schools to find out what food experiences they shared with each other. They developed their own agreements about how they would behave with each other in the youth space at the conference. Students joined the other participants of the conference to hear a keynote speech given by LaDonna Redmond, founder of the Campaign for Food Justice Now. Redmond shared her experiences trying to find good food for her family in a Chicago neighborhood that lacked access to healthy food. She started out thinking about the issues she and her family faced trying to get healthy food, and started community projects in her neighborhood to help bring healthy food to her and her neighbors. But, she realized the problem couldn’t be addressed with her food access projects; the problem had to be addressed by changing the food system. She discussed the history of the food system in America, and the legacy of injustice within the food system. Redmond deconstructed the concept of food deserts. She questioned the use of the term food deserts, because it causes people to look at their communities from a negative point of view. She urged people to look at the food available in their neighborhoods.
Following the keynote discussion students enjoyed a lunch celebration that included a multicultural taste of Detroit with food provided by several Detroit-based food businesses. During lunch, the students engaged in a discussion about the food available to them in their neighborhoods. Students talked about what kind of food they could find in their neighborhoods, and what issues they and their families face in getting food.
On April 4 students started the day with a breakfast scavenger hunt designed by Chef Phil Jones of COLORS — Detroit and Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan. During the breakfast scavenger hunt, students sampled healthy breakfast foods, including a breakfast smoothie in which the first ingredient was spinach. Following the breakfast scavenger hunt, the students could chose to participate in one of three workshops designed specifically for them. One workshop described the food system and students saw a cooking demonstration and afterwards enjoyed a dish prepared with fresh produce. Another workshop explored entrepreneurship in the food system and students discussed what types of businesses they would like to develop. The third workshop focused on food justice and students saw hip-hop performances that discussed issues of food justice.
On the second day of the conference, students enjoyed a lunch provided by COLORS — Detroit. COLORS is a non-profit restaurant started by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United of Michigan. COLORS uses local ingredients and trains local employees in collective entrepreneurship to create an eclectic menu and communal dining experience that provides excellently and ethically prepared meals. During lunch on the second day of the conference, the students participated in a guided discussion about what food they would like to see in their neighborhoods, and what they can do to change the food system.
The Detroit Food Policy Council will continue to engage students in sharing their experiences and concerns about food throughout the year. Students can join the ongoing conversation about food in our city on our Facebook page dedicated to youth, www.facebook.com/DFPCYouthVoices.
Kibib Blount-Dorn is program manager at Detroit Food Policy Council. She can be reached at 313.833.0396 or firstname.lastname@example.org