Archive for : Detroit

Snapshots from the Jewish Food Justice Movement

This post was created in partnership with Jewish Food Experience, a project focused on bringing people together around Jewish food, culture, and tradition.

What does food justice look like on the ground? That depends on where you are. Across the country, urban and rural communities of all sizes struggle with food insecurity and uneven access and availability to healthy food. But the particular challenges these communities face change from place to place—and the movement shifts in response to those changes.

Repair the World partners with local organizations and volunteers in multiple cities—Pittsburgh, New York City, Detroit and Philadelphia—and on multiple fronts to galvanize food justice movements that reflect and prioritize each city’s specific needs. Recently, we reached out to our food justice Team Leaders, who are working with these communities to get a firsthand account of what food justice looks like from their vantage point. Read on:

What is the most pressing food justice-related challenge in your city?
PITTSBURGH
There are 2 Pittsburghs: the rust belt comeback story people talk about, and the segregation and separation that is keeping blacks, other minorities and individuals living on the margins from being able to access and partake in the “new” Pittsburgh. This affects the food movement as well. Farmers markets, urban agriculture and all the hot new eateries mainly serve the white, wealthier classes of the city. So how does our city continue to progress and move forward without leaving people out? – Greg LaBelle, 25

NEW YORK CITY
Hunger is the most salient food justice challenge for New York City. The high cost of living in NYC doesn’t just prevent people from consuming healthful foods, it straight-up prevents them from being able to purchase enough food. Some government and private programs help alleviate the hunger, but they are not sufficient and have physical and/or psychological barriers to entry. – Sam Sittenfield, 25

PHILADELPHIA
The availability and distribution of healthy food options throughout the city is pressing. Philly is the poorest large city in America. Food resources tend to be concentrated in the wealthiest areas while under-resourced areas have more corner stores (which often lack fruits and vegetables) and fewer grocery stores. – Bridget Flynn, 23

DETROIT
I think the most pressing food justice challenge in Detroit is childhood hunger. In southeastern Michigan, 1 in 5 children is food insecure and over 300,000,000 children qualify for free or reduced lunch in schools. Without consistent access to nourishing food, children and adults are not able flourish. – Erin Piasecki, 25

What role can/should Jewish food advocates play in helping address this challenge?
PITTSBURGH
Jewish organizations and advocates can truly support the people fighting these issues when they understand how best to support the individuals and groups that need help. It is crucial that we not overpower the people who need help and not diminish the focus on them and their struggle.

NEW YORK CITY
The first thing that we need to do is to educate ourselves. Many of us in the Jewish community come from privileged backgrounds and will never truly understand hunger. We can, however, start to understand the context and how pervasive it is in our communities.

PHILADELPHIA
I have seen Jewish food advocates help to make positive change in the food justice sphere by listening to community needs and providing the resources to fill them. A major part of ally-ship is active listening before taking action. Jewish texts can also be used as a tool for food justice education.

DETROIT
Jewish food advocates have tremendous power to keep hunger, and particularly the plight of hundreds of thousands of hungry children, in the public eye through awareness raising campaigns, food drives, and other volunteer driven initiatives in their communities. By supporting and collaborating with longstanding institutions advocates can amplify and concentrate their fundraising and other efforts to eliminate 21st century hunger.

Find out more about Repair the World’s food justice work, including #SupportforRefugees, a Passover campaign focused on the global refugee crisis, and how you can become a future Repair the World fellow. Big thanks to some of our wonderful local food justice partners: Grow Pittsburgh, Keep Growing Detroit, Jewish Farm School in Philadelphia and Hunger Free America in NYC.

A Day in the Life: Abby Rubin on Moishe House and Being a Detroit Fellow

Curious what it means to be a Repair the World fellow? Here’s former Detroit fellow (and current partner at Detroit Moishe House), Abby Rubin’s take in an interview conducted by Andrew Weiner.

Tell me a little about yourself?
So my name is Abby Rubin. I grew up in Cleveland. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2013 with a degree in Organizational Studies, which means I learned how to make organizations run more efficiently and effectively, and just generally make them better. I was a Repair the World fellow last year doing education justice and fell in love with after-school programming,and the city of Detroit. Now I live in Midtown in the Detroit City Moishe House and work for Arts and Scraps, which is an amazing art and science education non-profit and I sell bracelets on Etsy!
Read more

Food Justice interview: Oran Hesterman of Fair Food Network

This fall, Repair the World is building a movement to Inspire Service, focusing on the critical issue of food justice in conjunction with Hunger Action Month.

Meanwhile, we’re spotlighting the work of awesome food justice-minded companies and organizations around the world. This week: Fair Food Network: an organization dedicated to building a more just and sustainable food system. We spoke with President and CEO, Oran Hesterman, not making sacrifices or compromises when it comes to helping food be sustainable and just for all.

Why is the work you do around food so important right now?
There are times when groups working on food issues seem to be camped out at one of two poles. On the one side are the epicureans or “foodies” who make the point that we need to pay the real cost for good food in order to support farmers. On the other side are the anti-hunger activists whose top priority is preserving calories for those most vulnerable. Make no mistake, the thinking behind both is commendable and necessary, but it should never be a question of whether we support hungry families or local farmers. We can and need to do both.

At Fair Food Network, we develop multi-win solutions that work across the food system to ensure that farmers earn a fair price for their products AND that families—especially those most underserved—have access to the most nutritious and delicious food possible.

Can you share a brief story that demonstrates Fair Food Network’s impact on food justice?
Our signature effort at Fair Food Network is a healthy food incentive program called Double Up Food Bucks. Double Up provides low-income Americans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamp) benefits with a one-to-one match to purchase healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Let’s say you’re a Michigan family living in Detroit. For every dollar of SNAP benefits you spend at your local farmers market, you get an equal amount to purchase Michigan grown fruits and vegetables. This means you can bring home $40 of healthy food for just $20.

Since 2009, we’ve grown Double Up from a small pilot in five farmers markets in Detroit to a statewide success story in more than 150 sites, now also including at grocery stores in one of the first such pilots in the country. Today nearly 90% of Michigan shoppers live in a county where the program operates. Our strong track record in Michigan helped inspire the new $100 million Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grants program in the 2014 Farm Bill. Because of matching fund requirements, with FINI there will be at least $200 million flowing to support programs such as Double Up Food Bucks across the county.

This March, Fair Food Network was honored to receive $5.1 million in FINI funding to expand Double Up Food Bucks in our home state of Michigan. The grant, the second largest in the first round of funding, will be matched with private funds for a total of nearly $10.4 million, which will allow us to grow the program at farmers markets, help markets adopt mobile technology and be open year-round, and increase program use in up to 50 grocery stores of all sizes.

In what ways do volunteers get involved with your work?
The success of Double Up Food Bucks is grounded in partnerships. We are currently growing our volunteer network and looking for help in bringing the program to life, particularly as it expands to more grocery stores. Volunteers are needed to greet shoppers and share how Double Up works at participating stores, give store tours or healthy food cooking demonstrations, connect with community partners, or help coordinate other volunteers.

What are the biggest challenges to your work?
There are many successful sustainable food models out there that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. One of the biggest challenges we – along with many other groups – face right now is how to shepherd such programs from models into the mainstream. As we have seen with healthy food incentives, policy can be a powerful vehicle to help spread and scale innovations. It is up to us to continue proving the concept and keeping our elected officials engaged in and informed of our work so they can be champions of this work.

And on the flip side, what have you found most inspiring?
Double Up and similar incentive programs can be game-changers. SNAP accounts for the largest government expenditure in our food and agriculture system. Programs like Double Up leverage those federal dollars to meet families’ immediate food needs with fresh, healthy food. But it doesn’t stop there: if they maintain a connection to local agriculture, they can also support area farmers and keep money in the local economy, which in turn spurs economic activity and opportunity.

In this way, food stamps are not only a way to assist low-income families in the here and now, they are also a powerful tool for long-term healthcare savings and an engine for economic development and revitalization. Conventional wisdom says you need a carrot and a stick to change behavior. What we have shown with Double Up Food Bucks is that you just need a better tasting and more affordable carrot.

Learn more about Fair Food Network at their website. And hear what Carole Caplan, Director of Program Enhancement at Fair Food Network had to say about her passion for food justice and Judaism on Repair’s recent “What on Earth is Food Justice?” Webinar.