OKT featured in IGE publication “Equity”

equityEquity is produced by the Institute for Global Education (IGE), 1118 Wealthy St. SE in Grand Rapids. IGE supports the nonviolent resolution to conflicts and the pursuit justice as the best way to achieve true, lasting peace through conscientious individual and group education and action. You can read the September issue of Equity here.

Our Kitchen Table is joining IGE for its children’s Peace Festival at the Eastown Street Fair, Saturday Sept.  12

OKT bulk foods pilot project off to a great start!

As a pilot program of its Food Diversity Project and the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market, Our Kitchen Table began offering market patrons the opportunity to order bulk  whole foods from Country Life Natural Foods, a supplier to food co-ops throughout the Midwest. The numbers are in and the first order was a success! “We had a total of seven households order. The families ordered combined total purchases of $650.60,” says Christina Flier, manager of the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market. “Four of them will be utilizing their food subsidies to purchase through the market, partnered with their  Double Up Food Bucks. These families have just increased their pantries, will be able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, and create wholesome meals for their families while supporting their community and maximizing their benefits. It’s a win – win for everyone.”
Flier will be placing Country Life orders on a monthly basis, with the next order being submitted mid-September. Market patrons and OKT constituents can order from paper catalogs available at the market or from the online catalog on Country Life’s website. OKT does not add any mark-ups or fees. After the orders arrive,those making purchases can pick them up at the market. The market will also keep some staples on site for direct purchase.
“Thank you to everyone who participated this time around. I’m beyond excited and feel this will be such a positive addition (to the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market),” Flier says. “We all deserve access to nutritious whole foods!

Help Build an Alternative Food System! Support the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market.

0920141251Did you know that Our Kitchen Table manages the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market as part of its strategy to build an alternative food system in Grand Rapids’ southeast neighborhoods? These neighborhoods are often labelled “food deserts,” although OKT finds this term misleading. It’s not simply that these neighborhoods don’t have grocery stores. The current corporate controlled food system profits tremendously from selling junk and fast foods here. OKT sees this practice as food apartheid as our food system offers healthy, whole foods in predominantly white, income-secure areas and nutrient-poor foods in income-challenged communities of color.

We all can build a better local food system by growing our own food, buying from local growers and pooling our resources to buy healthy bulk foods from places aligned with a food justice perspective. The Southeast Area Farmers’ Market brings you fresh, local fruits and veggies as well as opportunity to order healthy whole foods from Country Life Natural Foods.

This weekend, both market locations will also host cooking demos to help you find new ways to prepare the fresh produce you buy at the market. The market is open:

  • Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Garfield Park, 334 Burton St. SE.
  • Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Gerald R Ford Academic Center, 851 Madison SE.

The Southeast Area Farmers’ Market warmly welcomes Bridge cards (SNAP), Double Up Food Bucks , WIC Project Fresh, Cash Value Benefits, Summer EBT and debit cards. If you make a purchase with a Bridge Card, you get $1 for every $1 you spend to buy more Michigan produce (up to $20 each visit)!

OKT hosts Aug. 12 event: “Let’s talk Food Security & Sovereignty” with Special Guest, Mike Cohen


OKT’s Southeast Area Farmers’ Market addresses food insecurity n GR’s southeast neighborhoods. Photo: Drew Davis, OKT.

Garfield Park Lodge, 334 Burton SE 49507
Aug. 12 6:30 p.m.
Potluck & Discussion

Farmer and ecologist, Mark Cohen, an organic certifier and Bionutrient Food Association (BFA) chapter leader from Amesville, Ohio, will lead a discussion on food security and food sovereignty. He will speak to the what, why and how of developing regional food security and food sovereignty and provide information on forming local BFA Chapters focusing on the importance of food quality and nutrient dense food.

Mark Cohen has been working alongside other folks in Ohio for three years, organizing and setting up Mineral Depots, Grower Education, Consumer Education, Networking with Allied Organizations, and Food Quality Research. The Bionutrient Food Association is a national association of voting members who agree to uphold the mission of the organization and advocate for vital soils, nourishing food and healthy people. BFA partners with Grower Members to develop and implement practices that will improve food quality while making their operations more lucrative and sustainable. BFA helps consumers identify, advocate for and locate bionutrient food. BFA advocates to retailers and wholesalers for the preferential placement and promotion of bionutrient food. Finally, BFA empowers public and private policymakers and investors to support the shift from the century-long paradigm of factory farming to one in which quality food is profitable, ecologically sustainable, tastier, and equally available to all.

This series of talks is sponsored by OKT & the MI BFA Collective. They are working together as a collective for several Michigan BFA chapters to take hold in as many communities across the Great Lake State as possible.

Southeast Area Farmers’ Market launches Bulk Foods Buying Club

The Southeast Area Farmers’ Market is launching a bulk foods buying Club at this weekend’s markets. Market patrons will have an opportunity to purchase bulk whole foods, e.g. dry beans, whole grain flours, nuts and seeds, pasta, rice and more. Our Kitchen Table (OKT), the organization managing the market, is pilot testing this program. Items will be ordered from Country Life Foods, a supplier to Michigan food co-ops. Orders placed at the market by August 14 will be available for pick-up at the market on August 22. The next order takes place mid- September.

As the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market accepts Bridge card/SNAP/EBT, its patrons using these programs will be able to buy bulk food items at the market along with fresh, local fruits, vegetables and herbs. The market will offer some of the bulk foods for direct purchase (beginning August 22) as well as invite patrons to place their own orders. By ordering together, minimum purchase requirements for free delivery should be able to be met. Food orders will not be marked up from the catalog price. And, OKT is not adding any kind of fee to orders.

SEAFM ad 2015For the past five years, OKT’s Food Diversity Project has been addressing food insecurity in Grand Rapids southeast neighborhoods through the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market, its residential food gardening program, educational programming and policy work. Making bulk, staple, whole foods available to neighbors who do not otherwise have access to them furthers OKT’s goal of building a just alternative to the current industrial food system.

Rapidian reports: Our Kitchen Table works to empower and support Southeast residents

image (2)Reposted from the Rapidian

by CeNique Yeldell (Yeldellc) on Friday Jul 31st, 2015

Focusing on the Southeast area of Grand Rapids, the organization Our Kitchen Table (OKT) is actively empowering community members to reexamine their food system and giving them the tools to improve their health and environment.

Lisa Oliver King, founder of OKT, saw a need for a community based organization targeted toward people of color and low income families and individuals, particularly women, based on her work experience in public health. King teamed up with the Building Movement Project, an organization that develops and assists nonprofits seeking to create social change, to establish OKT.

A couple of resources OKT provides include the Southeast Farmer’s Market, co-sponsored by the Kent County Health Department and Greater Grand Rapids Food System Council, and the Food Diversity Project.

The market is open through November on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Garfield Park and through August on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Academic Center. Bridge Cards (SNAP), Double Up Food Bucks, WIC Project Fresh, Cash Value Benefits, Summer EBT and debit cards are accepted.

Vendors are primarily residents and women of color, who provide locally grown produce, crafts and personal care products. Events such as cooking demos and workshops ranging from urban foraging to homemade personal care products will take place throughout the market season.

Yvonne Woodard, a vendor of the Southeast Farmers market, has been involved OKT for over eight years. She says the market is a great way for community members to meet, keep money in the community and make locally grown food more accessible.

The Food Diversity Project aims to educate communities about food and environmental health disparities, while providing tools to build gardens for those with limited access to healthy food.

Paula Woods, a participant of the project, signed up with OKT and attended classes on planning a food garden and food justice as a requirement to receive a garden. OKT provided her with all the necessary tools, installed the majority of the plants and assigned her a garden coach.

Having a garden has given her a sense of accomplishment, says Woods, and she has learned a lot about things from food justice to composting.

“I’m excited to grow my own food, as is my family. I have a 3-year-old grandson that lives with me and he loves to help me water the garden. My husband is a chef and he loves having the fresh herbs around for cooking,” Woods says.

After receiving an environmental justice grant, OKT was able to conduct research on lead poisoning, childhood asthma and food power in Southeast Grand Rapids.

“I didn’t want to be guilty of coming in and getting what we needed for the grant, but really building a foundation around creating an infrastructure that allowed women to do this work,” King says.

Areas in Southeast Grand Rapids have been labeled as food deserts, meaning they have little to no access to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. OKT rejects this term, stating that the label is determined by the lack of food retail or big chain grocery stores.

“That’s not the only measurement of a food landscape. Not only do you have food retail, but you have food pantries, community gardens, restaurants and a multitude of entities that provide food in a neighborhood” Kings says. “If people are able to get food from one of these options that allows them to have healthy food on their plate, then they don’t live in a food desert.”

OKT instead uses the term food apartheid: the intentional, systematic marketing and distribution of profitable, nutrient poor, disease causing foods to income challenged neighborhoods, mainly communities of color.

By understanding terms like these, King says, community members have a better understanding of their resources and what barriers there are in order to bring about change.

OKT works with residents to help them recognize what their food system is in their neighborhood and how they can improve it as individuals and a collective. The group also discusses the importance of food labels, the connection between food and the environment, and how to look at food from a long term perspective so residents can make their own informed decisions.

Recently the organization and community members have taken action by working with the Linc Up Café, by negotiating menu items to accommodate health concerns in exchange for guaranteed customers.

King says everyone should have input in their food system and diet, including those with public assistance. She says women of color who receive assistance are especially disenfranchised because it’s automatically assumed that they don’t know what’s best for their families as it relates to their diet.

“We want to be seen as an asset to neighborhoods and our desired result is systemic change the community is interested in that will build a better quality of life,” Kings says.