Philanthropic funding totaling $900,000 will sustain food sovereignty programming for the next two years
Two Detroit food security innovators got a boost this week with multi-year funding from Rite Aid Healthy Futures, a charity arm of the familiar corner drugstore. Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) and Keep Growing Detroit (KGD) received $500,000 and $400,000 respectively to teach residents the importance of growing their own food.
DBCFSN will use the money to extend its Food Warrior and Food n’ Flava Programs directed toward youth ranging in ages 5-12 and high school-aged children respectively. With both programs focused on the seed to storage process of a plant’s life, Food n’ Flava will be a 16-week program for a selected high school while Food Warrior is an ongoing program for DBCFSN.
Mama Hanifa, DBCFSN founding member and education and outreach director, told Planet Detroit that the organization’s programming highlights youth as an “integral part of nature rather than outside of nature.” She educates youth on food cultivation and preparation and the culinary and healing benefits of herbs. Students take field trips to D-Town Farm and create value-added products like hot sauce from cayenne peppers grown at the farm.
DBCFSN’s programming includes learning Black history through an agricultural lens, shifting students’ perspective from a slave narrative to the ancestral “genius of agriculture” — as Mama Hanifa puts it — originating from their native land.
“All too often when we think about our relationship to agriculture, it’s always through a lens of oppression, our enslavement, or sharecropping. All those oppressions that were juxtaposed upon agriculture and our relationship to it,” Mama Hanifa said.
Keep Growing Detroit will be receiving $400,000 for their Healthy Eaters to Healthy Leaders Project that engages youth and families to develop positive relationships with healthy foods. They plan to support more than 1,000 gardens for youth engagement while also facilitating a seven-week summer youth apprenticeship.
The efforts of both organizations, along with many other urban farms in the city come at a time when many Detroit neighborhoods lack access to grocery stores and public transit to access affordable, healthy foods. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, about 48 percent of households in Detroit are food insecure.
Created in 2001m Rite Aid Healthy Futures is a public charity dedicated to driving change in communities with an emphasis on health, wellness, race, and equity in underserved neighborhoods. The Strengthening Cities Initiative is the first of its funding series where it has dedicated $10 million to select cities, with Detroit receiving $1 million.
Hanifa emphasized the importance of programs created through DBCFSN, Keep Growing Detroit, and many other like-minded organizations in the city.
“It is essential when we look at what’s going on not just locally, but globally, to control our food environment. Those who control your food, control you,” she said. “If we are not in a position to be able to grow our food, process our food, understand where our food is coming from – understanding how to prepare, store our food and our seeds, then we have a problem on our hands.
Food n’ Flava will be coming soon to select high schools while families interested in the Food Warrior Program can email Mama Hanifa at firstname.lastname@example.org.