Inside Access of West Michigan's food equity mission
At Access West of West Michigan, addressing food equity means analyzing the entire system in which we live.
“Typically and for decades we’ve just been trying to solve this problem of food insecurity with more food, and that is not going to make the change that we need," Erin Skidmore, Director of the Good Foods Systems at Access of West Michigan, said.
Skidmore explained her team’s approach strays from the traditional food charity initiative.
“Typically and traditional in community has been a charity focus and in emergencies is very appropriate and very needed, but our work is really focused on making long-term change," she said.
The group looks at the root causes of food equity and access, pushing for institutional and system change. Skidmore said this means addressing systemic racism that has been present for decades surrounding housing, wages, transportation, farming and more.
"We have to look around our communities and our neighborhoods and see 'where are the bus lines? How quickly and easily can people access food?'" Skidmore explained.
The group invests in local farmers, with an emphasis on growers of color, also partnering with local organizations to build fresh markets to sell affordable produce and expand jobs. The group also helped create a food policy council in Kent County to invoke policy changes.
“We want systems change so that more people can grow food in their yard or have access to land," she said.
Skidmore says in order for food insecurity to be discussed, it’s important to look at the factors around it.