by Sarah Small
The Greening of Detroit was founded to reforest Detroit and return the city to a state of environmental integrity filled with trees, green spaces, urban farms, and parks. The organization has dedicated itself to providing the community with the means and skills to protect their green spaces and grow their own food through job training, city plantings, and urban farming. Through their efforts, 85,000 trees have been planted since 1985 and 1,514 gardens have been created or supported since 2003.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Tepfirah Rushdan, Director or Urban Agriculture at The Greening of Detroit.
Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?
Tepfirah Rushdan (TR): We work on the production end to ensure that families and individuals have the skills and resources they need to grow their own food. In our fragile food system, The Greening of Detroit wants to ensure that these essential skills are passed along to future generations. We do this on four basic levels: an introduction to food production at our demonstration farms through tours and volunteering, more involved classes on farm skills and cooking, our Build A Garden Program that supports individuals and groups with gardening resources, and our apprenticeship program which provides advanced training to adults who wish to spend a season working alongside our farmers.
FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?
TR: We are extremely proud of all of our programming; however, what always stands out are the times when youth are engaged in learning at our mobile classes. Each year we go into classrooms, after-school programs, and summer camps to teach farm and food skills to Detroit’s youth. It’s always impressive when we see young people begging for more fruits and vegetables. One class would not let us leave until we made their Kale salad. We witnessed a change in their attitude about trying new foods, and their eating habits. It really warms our hearts to see this change occur.
FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?
TR: We would like to continue to engage thousands of Detroiters in understanding and contributing to our food system, providing them with the skills and knowledge to become healthy and self-sufficient.
FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?
TR: We hope eaters and consumers will recognize the true value of the food they are eating by participating in growing it, by knowing the process by which it got to their tables, by consuming more local produce, by understanding the health benefits of greater fruit and vegetable consumption, and by composting when they can.
FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?
TR: We encourage Detroiters to participate in the gardening and food preparation class offered throughout the growing season. Individuals can volunteer in a variety of ways and can also support us with donations or through our various fundraising events.
Download the 2014 Good Food Org Guide HERE.
Submit your suggestions for the 2015 guide HERE.
The James Beard Foundation and Food Tank, along with a prestigious advisory group of food system experts, developed the first annual Good Food Org Guide in 2014. This definitive Guide highlighted nonprofit organizations that are doing exemplary work in the United States in the areas of food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice. The 2015 Good Food Org Guide will be released in October at the James Beard Foundation Food Conference.