W.K. Kellogg Foundation renews grant for OKT Food Diversity Project

Touring OKT in-yard food gardens. Photo courtesy W K Kellogg Foundation.

Touring OKT in-yard food gardens. Photo courtesy W K Kellogg Foundation.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has committed $300,000 to funding the Our Kitchen Table (OKT) Food Diversity Project for another three years. In 2010, the foundation granted the Grand Rapids grass-roots environmental justice organization $360,000 funding for an initial three-year period. The goal of the funded program is to strengthen the capacity of Grand Rapids’ southeast neighborhood residents to address food and environmental health disparities impacting vulnerable children and families. “We are so pleased that the Kellogg Foundation has chosen to continue funding OKT’s efforts on the Food Diversity Project. Hunger is a huge issue—but under-nutrition impacts even more of our neighbors, especially children,” says Lisa Oliver-King, executive director. “Our project reinvents the term “affordable food” to mean nutritious, fresh, health-sustaining food.”

OKT has been addressing these issues since 2003. Focused on creating an alternative healthy food system within the Eastown, Baxter, SECA/Southtown and Garfield Park neighborhoods, The Food Diversity Program includes a yard gardening program, the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market and advocacy for just food and environmental policies. The renewed grant will continue and expand this work.

Yard Gardens: OKT plans on growing an estimated 5,500 organic starter food plants in the new hoop house it is building with Well House. In 2011 and 2012, Molesta Floral allowed OKT space in its empty greenhouses. In 2013, it grew in the Blandford Farm greenhouse. OKT provides its gardeners with containers, organic soil, soil testing, gardening education, garden coaches and monthly events on foraging, preparing and preserving nutritious foods. In 2013, 17 yard gardeners each harvested an estimated 65 to 85 pounds of food.

Southeast Area Farmers’ Market: Since 2011, OKT has managed the market in two locations: Gerald R Ford Academic Center and Garfield Park. Though small, it offers a wide variety of locally grown, chemical- free produce, cottage kitchen goods and other items. In 2012, more than 1,100 residents visited the market resulting in more than $8,000 in sales—89% of sales were from food subsidy programs (SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks et al.).

Policy: OKT addresses policy issues through its website, OKTJustice.org, presentations at events and two, five-week educational series: Food Politics and the Food Justice Movement and The History of Food.