How Keep Growing Detroit Is Making Food Accessible During a Pandemic

Photo by Cybelle Codish. Danielle Daguio of Keep Growing Detroit

Since the onset of COVID-19, grocery stores have been hit with shortages, limited hours, and social distancing restrictions making food shopping an anxiety-inducing experience, to say the least. At the same time, thousands of families have found themselves suddenly jobless, without income, and faced with fewer options to feed their households.

With this in mind, organizers from Keep Growing Detroit launched its Online Farm Store that both provides residents with a safe alternative to traditional in-person shopping and helps to fill that increased demand for affordable, healthy food options.

Since the launch of the site earlier this year, shoppers have had the option to select just the items they want or sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture — CSA — box, which consists of a box of seasonal produce curated by participating farms and gardens from the organization’s Grown In Detroit program. In addition to being packed with local fruits and vegetables, the boxes also include packaged food items prepared by local food entrepreneurs like jars of spicy garlic chili made by Pink Flamingo’s Meiko Krishok or pickled carrots from Avalon International Breads.

The website takes the place of the organization’s physical farm table, which was situated at Eastern Market and its participating farms’ CSA program, wherein customers would stop by the farms and pick up their boxes each week.

What sets the Online Farm Store apart from for-profit grocery delivery offerings is its Fair Share program, which gives customers who reside in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park and who are experiencing economic hardship the option to pay full price, set up payment plans, or use an EBT card.

It’s an innovative way for us to provide folks with not just the latest harvest, but also earned income for smaller farms and gardens in Detroit, who are market growers through our Grown in Detroit program.  Previously they would harvest what they have and bring it to the table, and 100 percent of the profits from their produce go right back to them. We’ve taken that same model, and moved it to the Online Farm Store,” says Danielle Daguio, fundraising and data specialist for Keep Growing Detroit.

Photo by Cybelle Codish. Danielle Daguio of Keep Growing Detroit

A Second Wave Michigan article says that according to Hailey Lamb, of the Michigan Farmers Market Association, 240 farmers markets across the state have had to make adaptations to meet the needs of the communities they serve as a result of the pandemic, including introducing online or alternative sales platforms.

Each week the site is updated with the latest harvest. Ordering goes live by 9 a.m. on Thursday morning. Customers must place orders online by 9 p.m. on Sunday. Curbside pickup takes place between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Everyone is asked to wear a mask during pickup and to keep a safe distance of six feet or more from others. Pickups take place at the Keep Growing Detroit Farm at 1850 Erskine (corner of Orleans and Wilkins in the Eastern Market).

Since launching in June, Daguio says the Online Farm Store has realized a steady response.

“People have been excited about it, I’ve noticed people really utilizing this as their go-to resource. I consistently see the same people on a weekly basis from all across the metro Detroit area. People really notice the quality that’s being put out there,” she says.

That response inspired, in part, for Keep Growing Detroit organizers to launch a special Thanksgiving Share, consisting of all the fixings needed to prepare a homecooked Thanksgiving meal, including, salad greens, cooking greens, potatoes or sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions, garlic, herbs, and carrots or beets.  Each box includes 20 to 30 pounds of produce, plenty to feed a family of four to six people. Orders are being accepted for this offer between 9 a.m. Thursday’s and 9 p.m. Sundays. Thanksgiving Shares must be picked up curbside between 4 and 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 24 at the Keep Growing Detroit Farm.

With Michigan winters right around the corner, Keep Growing Detroit has a plan for continual growth despite the snow, being sure families can eat all year round. 

“For the winter months, we’re putting seeds in right now. We have the wonderful opportunity to have two greenhouses on our land,” Daguio shares. “The beauty of the greenhouses is things are still growing. It’s still warm in there.

Fighting for access to food and building upon its network of farms across Detroit’s neighborhoods, Keep Growing Detroit hopes to continue making food sustainability and sovereignty a priority in Detroit.

“We’re doing our best. We’re figuring it out,” Daguio says.

For more information about the Online Farm Store, click here.

Additional reporting by Serena Maria Daniels

This article was supported by a Building Healthy Places grant from Taste the Local Difference (TLD) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
Megan Kirk

Author: Megan Kirk

Megan Kirk is a freelance writer from Detroit with a passion for local news. A recent graduate of Michigan State University, she has been featured in Opportunity Detroit as well as The Michigan Chronicle.

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