Our Kitchen Table
Our Kitchen Table, now in their fourth year, works to help families form sustainable food systems — starting in their own backyard. This year, OKT has received a $360,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation “to strengthen the capacity of southeast urban neighborhood residents in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to address food and environmental health disparities impacting vulnerable children, families, and individuals by creating resident owned gardens and managed Healthy Food Demonstration Sites.”Outside of a press release, what does this mean, exactly? In a conversation with Executive Director Lisa Oliver-King, she explains the mission of OKT and what they hope to accomplish with these new funds. A quick explanation is that OKT connects food-growers, that is, residents in various neighborhoods who can grow food in their own gardens, and then share with other growers producing different foods.Experienced food growers act as coaches, and OKT teaches seed-saving, alternate growing methods, drought-resistant growing and they are moving to year-round growing. “Growing food is a long-term process,” Oliver-King says, “not a short-term process. Really understanding the land, the impacts of weather and understanding water — there’s a lot that’s involved in growing food, even for yard growers. We’re trying to expand a collective sharing approach, one where folks can grow food together from a buddy stem approach, from a food diversity approach.”Food diversity is important. Oliver-King says there are many types of even one kind of produce — tomatoes, for instance — that can suitable for a multitude of uses. If you have tomatoes that are good for salsas, meeting a grower who has tomatoes good for sandwiches or salads can diversity your food options. And creating a sustainable and diverse food system is OKT’s business, especially for those who may not otherwise be able to afford quality produce.”We work in low-income neighborhoods, with single female households with small children,” Oliver-King says. “We found that the whole notion of food growing from a collective perspective strengthens and supports, and overcomes the challenges that many of these families are faced with.”While OKT has food growers throughout the city, OKT is currently focused in four primary neighborhoods — Eastown, Baxter, Garfield Park and SECA. Oliver-King says food, security and environmental challenges are not the only struggles these neighborhoods face.”When we look at building political and economic power, (these neighborhoods) are in the third ward with the lowest voting rate,” Oliver-King says. OKT also focuses on health and nutrition, especially where access to healthy food by growing may not be enough. There are the issues of storage, what to do with leftovers or an over-abundance of a particular crop. Some families may not have functional kitchens. OKT teaches about composting and finding meals that can be cooked in low-tech situations. A garden coach may be assigned to a family to help them become stable and self-reliant. Individuals with specific health concerns are also taken into consideration. When OKT began working with the Greater Grand Rapids Food System Council in conjunction with a planning grant provided by the USDA, OKT surveyed 450 households to “figure out how do people identify food through the lens of power and justice.” While asking questions like where and how did these households get food, they learned a lot more. They learned that there were food growers, but these growers did not necessarily talk or share with one another. A family from Greece had been growing grape leaves from their home country since 1950, and other families had native food brought from Jamaica and Ethiopia. “We met an African American family addressing health issues,” Oliver-King says. “African American males in their family were being diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of 10-13, so they turned 75 percent of their yard into a garden.”In Eastown, OKT discovered a generational garden, first started by a grandmother and later tended to by the grandchildren. “Just by walking through and talking to people about the role of food their lives, (residents) were able to talk to us from a historic perspective, from a food self-reliance perspective,” Oliver-King says.With the new funding, OKT has clear goals including hosting a community kitchen for those who may not have suitable kitchens for home cooking and creating a cookbook to address various cooking situations and challenges. OKT also looks to partner with farmers’ markets, and expand and connect gardens across the SE side of the city. Creating a food system in a neighborhood could help farmers’ markets to know what neighborhood gardens cannot produce and what there is a demand for.”We’re hoping to add a mobile market, creating a food basket made up of fresh produce as well as fresh food created from yard gardens — salsa, soups, sauces, things like that,” Oliver-King says. “We’ll deliver those baskets to folks in neighborhoods that are challenged with environmental and health disparities.”OKT is also plans to grow 200-300 starter plants available on a sliding scale basis to food growers. OKT will help them plant the starter plants as well. Discussion is available at a follow-up meeting to a previous community forum on Feb. 19 from 10 a.m. until noon at the Eastown Neighborhood Association (415 Ethel St. SE). Gardening classes start on March 5 at the SECA (1409 Madison Ave. SE) from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. for those looking to prepare and begin a food garden. J. Bennett Rylah is the Managing Editor of Rapid Growth Media.
Our Kitchen Table
ilovemykids17 Independence, Missouri Level Contributor 69 reviews 57 restaurant reviews 23 helpful votes “Yummmmmeee” Reviewed June 2, 2016 via mobile We visited Our Kitchen Table as a family one day before we had to go to a funeral in the area and we loved it. The burgers are awesome and all of their fried appetizers are delicious especially the fried mushrooms. The owners are very nice as well. I can't wait to go back!! Helpful? Thank ilovemykids17 Report
Our Kitchen Table
“The Farm Bill is critical to Michigan agriculture, which supports one in four jobs across our state,” said Stabenow. “Thanks to input from our farmers and stakeholders, the 2014 Farm Bill has Michigan on every page, and was signed into law here at Michigan State University. We made historic investments to support our small towns, protect our land and water, help our farmers export and sell more products locally, and end unnecessary subsidies and programs – saving taxpayers $80 billion more than we first expected. As we begin our work on the 2018 Farm Bill, I’m committed to making sure Michigan’s voice is heard again so we can continue to support our state’s farmers and families and create new jobs.”
Our Kitchen Table
Founded in 2003 as a call to action, OKT mobilizes low income women to build capacity by utilizing a community transformation model. Learning begins with an understanding and analysis of the root causes of oppression and its manifestations in our daily lives. Elements of oppression include structural barriers, race and gender bias and disparities in wealth and power.
In partnership with TAFE, we’re launching an accredited hospitality front of house training program. For 15k, we will set up 10 monthly dinners to offer further training for women who we meet in our cooking programs and who show an interest in what we do. The 15k will be for the event management and coordination of 10 dinners.
$45,000 Stretch Goal In partnership with TAFE, we’re launching an accredited hospitality front of house training program. For 15k, we will set up 10 monthly dinners to offer further training for women who we meet in our cooking programs and who show an interest in what we do. The 15k will be for the event management and coordination of 10 dinners.
The idea of eating healthier foods in many ways has become mainstream. However, for people experiencing income challenges or living in neighborhoods of color, access to these healthier foods is not a reality. A true food apartheid exists in our community—and that’s where the work of food justice begins.
April 17, 6—8 p.m. at Garfield Park Lodge, 334 Burton St SE 49507 The idea of eating healthier foods in many ways has become mainstream. However, for people experiencing income challenges or living in neighborhoods of color, access to these healthier foods is not a reality. A true food apartheid exists in our community—and that’s where the work of food justice begins. This food justice class will define what food justice is, explore the roots of the industrial food system and investigate the many facets of food justice. If you want to know more about food justice—or become involved in it yourself—please join us for this free, brief introduction to food justice. OKT will conclude the informal dialogue with group input on how we can practice food justice locally.