Renowned food entrepreneur Devita Davison, the Executive Director of FoodLab Detroit, was a keynote speaker at the recent Cardinia Food Forum held in Pakenham, Victoria. Devita told us the story of Detroit, Michigan following the collapse of the automobile industry that reduced the population of the city from 2 million to 700 000 and drastically reduced the number of grocery and fresh food outlets across neighbourhoods. The health impacts and lack of economic opportunity that occurred as a result of this exodus sparked ‘an amazing grassroots movement of community leaders and urban farmers and growers, restauranteurs and entrepreneurs’ who form a burgeoning network of more than 1500 community gardens and urban farms involving more than 30,000 people growing food.
Since 2013, more than 240 businesses have been mentored and supported by Devita and the Detroit Food Lab and in the last year alone more than $7.5 million in sales were generated from these businesses in a city where over 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line.
Jen Sheridan, Foodprint Melbourne and Victorian Eco Innovation Lab (VEIL) was the 2nd keynote speaker. Jen is a keen researcher and part of teams working with a broad range of stakeholders to develop a vision to increase the resilience of Melbourne’s foodbowl. This is a fundamental building block for a sustainable, healthy and equitable food system for the city.
All cities and towns need to be aware of the planning required to secure their future food and to prioritize, support and protect local growers.