Detroit, Detroit – Week 3. – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Detroit, Detroit – Week 3.

I’m no where near Detroit. In fact I’m about 300 miles away from the city. But I still feel like I’m learning so much about Detroit, especially about its social dynamics.

I’ve learned quite a bit about Detroit via my DCERP Fellows. For example, I learned a lot about Ysabel’s work through her Week 2 blog. Her organization, HOPE Village Revitalization, is working on allowing every resident to be a stakeholder in the success of their community. They are planning on opening their first market soon, and not just with food, but for cultural and local satiation as well. From this, I learned that Detroit needed a bigger sense of community and cohesion when it comes to supporting each other and appreciating each others’ talents. When community building occurs, facilitated by groups like HOPE Village Revitalization, people can pool each other’s talents and passions and create something beautiful. And the market is a wonderful way to start.

I’m also well underway with Project #1 with my community organization, Authority Health. I’m actually starting to create my brochures that can educate community organizations and even local officials about the connections of food insecurity and health in Detroit, and how food insecurity has affected Detroit communities during COVID 19. My main findings are the following:

1. COVID 19 has impacted two sources of food security: income and food access. Because of COVID 19 and stay at home orders, people started to lose their jobs. With lower income, people have a hard time affording quality food (if any food at all). And also because of stay at home orders, many typical outlets for food are unavailable. Schools have shut down, so children that depend on food from school to stay nourish can no longer do so. Because of panic buying and an increased demand for groceries, grocery stores are having empty shelves (it’s already hard for some Detroiters to have access to groceries before COVID 19- there’s many grocery gaps in Detroit- see the picture below. So imagine how much harder it is now when groceries don’t have everything the people need!). And the elderly must stay home in order to social distance, as they are at higher risk for contracting the virus- but how can they keep themselves fed if they cannot take trips to the grocery store? All these scenarios are happening in Detroit, and it’s increasing food insecurity as a result.

2. Food insecurity has adverse health outcomes, which are worsened by COVID 19 or puts them at higher risk of COVID 19. Because of lower income and food access, food insecurity is increasing. Food insecurity leads to many adverse health outcomes, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke. Some of these adverse outcomes, such as obesity, cancer, and diabetes, are the underlying outcomes that increases a person’s risk of getting a severe case of COVID 19, no matter what age. In other words, COVID 19 increased food insecurity, food insecurity leads to adverse health outcomes, adverse health outcomes lead to a severe case of COVID 19 if one contracted the virus. In the long term, this can become a huge cycle!

Food insecurity also has an impact on mental health. It increases anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders, such as shorter sleep duration and longer sleep latency (it takes you longer to fall asleep).

Food insecurity, specifically hunger, can lead to developmental health issues, such as depression, suicidal ideation, and chronic conditions, particularly asthma. Remember the ACEs from my supervisor on Tuesday? Hunger is one of them. (And yes, there’s a slight difference between food insecurity and hunger. Food insecurity is an umbrella term. One can have access to plentiful food- thus not hungry- but the food is poor quality, which is still food insecurity).

And 3. COVID 19 as shocked the food supply chain, which can also enhance food insecurity. The reason why there’s such a huge demand for groceries is because restaurants, farmer’s markets, and other food service sectors have gone down. This hurts growers, especially the local growers, as restaurants and farmer’s markets are their outlet. Suppliers also need to repackage goods, as packaging is different for foods that are going to restaurants versus grocery stores. Food routes must also be adjusted as well. If they can’t figure out the readjustments in time, the food ends up rotting, thus increasing food waste. The food system we know runs on steady changes – that was not provided during COVID 19. The food system was unprepared for COVID 19, so shortages of food on the shelves, higher prices, and food waste results. Those three things also enhance food insecurity.

I know that this is a lot of info, but there’s a lot of faucets within the food system and demand that can cause food insecurity, and those faucets need to be shut off, controlled. This is why Authority Health is so important during this age of COVID 19. Public health is at risk now, and Authority Health, being a public health organization, can contribute to alleviating the stress.

Luckily though, it wasn’t all rain when it came to food insecurity and COVID 19. I’ve learned about multiple Detroit growers that are trying to support the community, even though their restaurant outlets are down. For example, Anita Singh, the founder of Get Down Farm, usually sell flowers through the Michigan Flower Cooperative. However, due to COVID 19, instead of investing in planting more flowers, she and her team are planning on growing food for their community. Willerer, who co-owns Brother Nature Produce in North Corktown with his wife, Olivia Hubert, is working with local growers to set up satellite farm stands in neighborhoods, so people won’t have to shop in busy grocery stores. It’s initiatives like these that show local people using their talents to better their community and get them more food secure and safer from COVID 19.

With all this research and discussion about Detroit for the past few weeks, I’ve definitely felt myself becoming more passionate about Detroit. Perhaps… I may care about Detroit just as much as I care about Chicago.

Maybe, lol ☺️.

1 thought on “Detroit, Detroit – Week 3.”

  1. Heyyy Leslie! I really appreciate the visuals that accompany your experience. Your post was so informational and has really inspired me to dive deeper into my own work. One of the main takeaways was learning about a plethora of organizations such as Authority Health and how they can contribute to servicing community’s health in a mutual relationship. I am looking forward to learning more about your works through these blogs.

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