In an effort to provide more residents of Grand Rapids access to healthy and affordable food, the city is seeking the public’s input on how to better its urban agriculture situation. The hope is that urban agriculture will help grow the local food system, while improving the quality of life and public health for its residents, specifically, those living in the city’s lower-income neighborhoods.
According to the national research and action institute PolicyLink, full-service grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other vendors that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods are typically found in middle-class communities, where lower income neighborhoods are forced to shop at convenience stores or eat fast food.
Levi Gardner is the chair of the Grand Rapids Urban Agriculture committee and founder of Urban Roots.
“And so unfortunately healthy fresh food still has a bit of a stigma around it that it is something for the middle class or for those who can afford it,” Gardner said. “We believe that health is a human right, and health in all of its domains is something that we should be working for all of us not just for those who have the resources to afford it.”
The solution, Gardner says, is urban agriculture, where city gardens can produce thousands of pounds of fresh produce. The Grand Rapids Urban Agriculture Committee is hosting five community meetings this month to get the public’s input on what they hope that will look like.
“And the thing that I am voting for is Garden city, not beer city,” Gardner said. “What would it look like if every school, faith, community, community association, homeowners association, had an educational garden? What it would it look like 10, 20, and 30 percent our own food on the shared green spaces that we have? What if there was an abundance of plant based eating culture all throughout the city?”
The meetings are scheduled October 22-25th.