GRAAHI & Cherry Health hosting special COVID-19 Facebook Live event 5 p.m. today

Join Grand Rapids African American Health Institute’s Micah Foster and Cherry Health’s Tasha Blackmon today, Wednesday, April 22, at 5 p.m. for a special Facebook Live discussion about COVID-19’s impact on our community and the resources available at Cherry Health.


The event, which will be live streamed on both GRAAHI and Cherry Health’s Facebook pages, will focus on COVID-19 screening and testing available at Cherry Health as well as tips for practicing good social distancing and use of PPEs. Foster and Blackmon will also be answering viewer questions via the comments during the informative session.

OKT represented at Neighborhood Summit

3OKT’s executive director, Lisa Oliver-King, took part as a panelist and presenter in two City of Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit workshops on March 7, one on environmental justice and another on urban agriculture. The 2020 summit theme was “Growing Justice and Community.” For the event, OKT created an updated version of the guide developed with the City in 2019, “Growing Community, Justice, & Food.”

This guide covers how to grow food gardens, with tips on selecting plants and seeds, choosing a garden spot, planning a planting schedule, watering, dealing with Growing Community, Justice and Food 3-4-20pests, and saving seeds for next year and neighbors. Updates addressed how to compost healthy soil, air quality and foods that reduce asthma and allergies, and the importance of trees. In addition, the new version highlighted Grand Rapids Public Schools sustainability initiatives.

You can view and download “Growing Community, Justice and Food” here.

Dr. Kristi Artz and Mary Brown inspired new ways of looking at the Future of Food

WOC2Kristi Artz, MD, CCMS, with the Spectrum Health Culinary Medicine, and Mary Brown, Lead, Learning & Development Consultant Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) at Spectrum Health, led an interesting discussion at OKT’s Feb. 24 Women of Color Convening, which was sponsored by OKT and the Singularity University (SU) Grand Rapids.

WOC1Brown, a futurist, shared the role that artificial intelligence such as drones could play on farms of the future, how scientists are working to create food equivalents in the lab, and how we might be looking to alternative sources for protein in the future, for examples insects.

Dr. Artz shared the role that whole plant-based foods play in building good health. She began by citing the shortfalls of the Standard American Diet (SAD), which ignores nutritiousWOC4 fruits and vegetables in favor of high calorie, low fiber foods that promote chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity. These foods can also impact mental health and make us more vulnerable to common  maladies like the flu and colds.

Eating a whole food diet that is based on lots of fruits and vegetables can prevent and sometimes reverse both chronic and acute health problems and address inflammation that underlies many of these issues.

Dr. Artz shared electronic copies of her presentation as well as many reccipes. If you’d like an electronic copy of these, email

Plainsong Farm offering Christian-based Young Adult Farm Fellowship

Screen-Shot-2019-10-03-at-1.52.51-PMPlainsong Farm Young Adult Fellowship
Rockford, Michigan
May 31, 2020 – August 15, 2020

Plainsong Farm is located in Rockford, Michigan, with a mission of restoring lost
connections between people, places and God. The Young Adult Fellowship residential
program is designed for young adults aged 25 to 31 who are seeking to explore the
intersection of regenerative agriculture, Christian spirituality, justice and their personal
The farm itself is a 12-acre, historic, small-scale organic practice farm just outside
Grand Rapids in West Michigan, on the ancestral lands of the Anishinabe people. The
Fellowship program combines field work, reading, discussion, and independent,
self-directed projects that support Plainsong Farm’s mission. It is both immersive and
experiential, with the goal of equipping Fellows to become future leaders in the
re-integration of Christianity and the care of Creation.
Over an 11-week session, Plainsong Fellows will experience:
● A balanced life of prayer, study and work rooted in Benedictine spirituality
● Immersion in regenerative agriculture and contemplative practice for health and
● Contextual analysis of power, possession, people, and place, both in history and
● Life in community with one another and the various communities of Plainsong
● Mentoring in clarifying, goal setting, and completing a personal project
Applications are now being accepted for the 2020 Plainsong Fellowship cohort.
For more information, contact or visit:

WOC Convening: “The Future of Healthy Food, Healthy Lifestyle, and Community”

Mary Brown currentMon. Feb. 24, 2020, 9 – 10:30 a.m.
MLK Jr. Leadership Academy 
645 Logan St. SE 49507

Unless you are a Program for Growth participant,registration is required.

Since 2014, OKT has hosted Women of Color Convenings to bring inspiring and impactful voices of color to community with the goal of empowering our constituents to live healthier and become advocates for environmental justice and equity.

Sponsored by OKT and the Grand Rapids Singularity U Chapter, the next convening features Mary Brown, SingularityU Grand Rapids Chapter Lead, and guests from the Spectrum Health Culinary Medicine program. The program engages health care professionals and community members in the importance of food as a tool in achieving optimal health. Looking at behavior change, mindfulness, plant-based nutrition, obesity and chronic disease management, the culinary medicine team seeks to elevate the current conversation about nutrition, remove the distractions of fad diets, and focus on the hard science of a well-balanced diet.

Singularity University (SU) Grand Rapids is one of 142 chapters in 66 world locations recognized as up-and-coming technology centers. SingularityU focuses on artificial intelligence (AI) and human interactions, looking at how exponential technologies can be used for good in society.

In addition to her role at Spectrum, Brown is a researcher and futurist with experience human centered design, organization development. “We hear a lot of the doomsday predictions. Those are valid concerns but, at the same time, we are looking at how to be proactive and use technology for good,” Brown stated in a Jan. 2019 Rapid Growth Media story. “We have people who know a lot within pockets of the community. The hope is to get these people out and participating in meaningful and productive ways,” Brown says. “If it’s always about bringing the elite into the room — and not diverse people and inclusion in the space — then we defeat the purpose of how we are going to solve the problems. The people closest to the challenges are those who have the answers. Those who are in that elite status don’t have those same challenges.”

Photo courtesy Adam Bird

GRPS sustainability coordinator Program for Growth’s January speaker

trovillionOn Monday Jan. 27, Kristen Trovillion, sustainability coordinator for Grand Rapids Public Schools, shared how she is helping to green the district as well as information for making our own homes greener—and healthier. Grand Rapids is one of two districts in the state with a dedicated sustainability department. So far, she has led GRPS in the following sustainable accomplishments:

Cleaning chemicals. A district-wide inventory found that schools were using a total of 65 cleaning chemicals, many of them toxic. That number has been reduced to six safe products that are equally effective. Kristen shared that hydrogen-peroxide based cleaners kill just as many germs as bleach—and without the dangerous side effects. Did you know that exposure to bleach impacts the respiratory system? It can bring on more asthma attacks or prolong respiratory illness.

pfg 1 27Gardens. Kristen is currently making an inventory of all gardens at Grand Rapids Public schools, noting whether they are food gardens, pollinator gardens, or other kinds of gardens. This information will help the district see what goes into a successful garden and to better communicate with grounds staff, who sometimes inadvertently damage gardens during routine maintenance.

Composting. Kristen shared that 80% of GRPS waste is generated in the lunchrooms. Four or five schools are composting a little bit of that waste in the classroom with the help of local Grand Rapids’ compost company, Wormies, and some resident red worms. Eight schools are composting food waste, compostable lunch trays and napkins via a commercial company located in Zeeland. GRPS has to pay to have waste hauled to Zeeland. She is looking into introducing reusable trays at schools with dishwashers, but most schools are not set up for these.

Lawn chemicals. Overall, GRPS does not use toxic pesticides or herbicides and is switching over to organic lawn management. Kristen noted that they only use toxic herbicides or pesticides in urgent situations, e.g. with invasive species like poison ivy. When they are used, notices are posted on the school’s front doors and elsewhere.

Energy use and recycling. GRPS is in process of installing more energy efficient lighting and making best use of natural light, as healthy lighting supports learning. They are overhauling the current recycling system and will be introducing sorting stations to replace the current bins, which cause confusion and tend to disappear.

OKT will be including Kristen’s valuable input in its next revision of A Guide to Replication: Program for Growth, which will be tailored for use by GRPS in replicating the Program for Growth at other schools in the district.

GRABB & Loc Royalty LLC Small Business Saturday Pop-up

unnamedLocation: Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation
Address: 1530 Madison Ave SE Grand Rapids, MI 49507
Date: Saturday, November 30th 2019
Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM
GRABB & Loc Royalty LLC is partnering to bring the Official Small Business Saturday Holiday Pop-up event. This event was created to support and showcase Black businesses within our community.
You can expect to find local entrepreneurs representing a variety of products and services. Please come and share your patronage; Love Local and Shop Small! For the Kids: pictures with Black Santa and crafts!!
Small Business Saturday Pop-up Vendors:
D’s Dipped Delectables
Dream Keep It Moving
Ds Smell Good
It Works
Maiyah Mari
Momma D’ Kitchen
On Time Dumpster Rental
Robinson’s Popcorn
Savor The Flavor
Shades of Color
Shea Buttercups by TahLee
Thats Sew Me LLC
VSJ Fitness
Jazzy Jewlelz by Yolanda
Studio 824 Beauty Lounge

OKT canning workshop gets rave reviews at BUGS Conference in NYC

OKT peer-educators, Belinda Harrison and Fatima Lee, traveled with OKT’s executive director, Lisa Oliver-King, to New York City Oct. 25 to present a session at the Black Urban Growers (BUGS) conference in New York City.  Ms. Lee created the program, “Canning’s not just for Grannies: Preserving the Harvest” to share basic canning skills with conference participants.

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“Everyone appreciates you all,” emailed Sue Rock, head of a Brooklyn-based nonprofit. “What an amazing workshop — so excited to start making everything, except botulism!”

Click on the links to view  pdfs of the presentation’s PowerPoint and handout.

Post-Halloween pumpkin drive

pIs your Halloween pumpkin starting to rot on your front steps? Ridgemoor Park Montessori and Wormies Vermicompost are partnering on a pumpkin drive. 1.9 billion pounds of pumpkins are grown each year and most end up in landfills. Because of
their high water content, pumpkins in landfills contribute to groundwater contamination. When pumpkins decompose in landfills, they release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. By composting pumpkins, they’ll be transformed into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that benefits the environment, rather than harming it.

Ridgemoor Park Montessori, along with the help of their upper-elementary students, will be hosting a pumpkin drive on November 7 & 8,  learning firsthand about the composting process with an assembly. Wormies will be partnering with a few other schools in the area to collect pumpkins in early November. For information, contact
Luis Chen at