COVID-19 Testing at Garfield Park

New Neighborhood Testing Site Begins Offering COVID-19 Testing in Grand Rapids

LANSING, MICH. A new Neighborhood Testing Site in Grand Rapids opens today, bringing the total number of community sites offering COVID-19 testing to 21. The Michigan Department of the Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is working with trusted community partners including churches, community colleges and nonprofit organizations to launch the sites.  

The site, at Garfield Park Gym, 2111 Madison Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, will offer testing Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

“Neighborhood testing sites have proven to be a valuable resource for communities across the state to ensure free testing is available to all Michiganders,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy of health at MDHHS. “Since these sites were opened at the end of August, more than 16,000 Michiganders have been tested at one of the Neighborhood Testing Sites. Locations were chosen in part to help address racial and ethnic disparities that existed prior to the pandemic and were exacerbated by the virus.” 

“We are pleased to collaborate with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Kent County Health Department to bring COVID-19 testing to our Garfield Park neighborhood,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “Providing free health screening to our most vulnerable residents is critical as we all work together to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  And this is another example of how we are working with partners to reduce health disparities in our community.”

The new sites join 20 other sites in Albion, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Ecorse, Flint, Graying, Lansing, Niles, Roseville, Saginaw and Wayne. Language translation is being provided at all sites, as well as assistance for the deaf and hard of hearing.

“As we continue to encourage the people of Kent County to get tested, we are grateful to have this additional resource in our community,” said Dr. Adam London, administrative health officer with the Kent County Health Department. “Ensuring access to quality testing is a key part of our strategy to identify cases and limit COVID-19’s ability to spread.” 

Testing sites are offering saliva tests, which are less invasive than nasal swabs and may make the testing process more tolerable for some people.  Appointments are strongly encouraged and can be made either by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 and selecting “1,” or online. Walk-ins will be taken as space allows, but pre-registration is strongly advised. Online registration is available at

Test results can be obtained via phone, email or by logging into the results portal.  

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at and    

OKT featured on “Thought About Food Podcast”

Listen in on the above link!

Ian’s Show Notes

Ian Werkheiser
  • Follow us on Twitter at @FoodThoughtPod, and you can drop us a line at ThoughtAboutFood on Gmail. Consider leaving us a review wherever you found us!
  • Lisa Oliver King and Estelle Slootmaker work for Our Kitchen Table, a grass-roots, nonprofit organization serving greater Grand Rapids.
  • Our Kitchen Table does amazing work, and they have resources for replicating those programs in your own organization or community. Check them out!
  • Our Kitchen Table was featured in the book Food Justice in US and Global Contexts: Bringing Theory and Practice Together, which I edited with Zachary Piso.
  • The intro and outro music is “Whiskey Before Breakfast” which is both a great traditional song and an increasingly common practice for parents helping their children with remote schooling. It was performed and shared by The Dan River Ramblers under a Creative Commons license.
  • Since we had two guests, we were lucky enough to get two recipes! Lisa Oliver King’s heartily endorses Bryant Terry’s recipe for greens in our episode. She also writes, “Bryant joined us for an event a few years back and has remained dear to our hearts. I always share his cookbook when we table at events.
  • And here’s Stelle’s recipe:
    “I love making this soup for my hubby and me. This big pot of soup lasts us two or three meals. I make and freeze vegetable broth from stalks, stems and leaves of vegetables we get from our CSA share all
    summer. If I don’t have sweet potatoes, it works just as well with winter squash, which we also freeze a lot of. This soup recipe launched my passion for making hearty soups, which have become a mealtime
    staple for us. I got this recipe when my daughter, Caitlin, worked at the People’s Food Co-op. I have lots of good memories of meeting her and her brother, Rob, there for lunch of coffee when I visit Ann Arbor.”

    People’s Food Coop of Ann Arbor West African Peanut Soup
    • 1⁄2 T olive oil This big pot of soup lasts us two or three meals
    • 1 1⁄2 C Spanish onion peeled and chopped
    • 1⁄4 T minced fresh ginger
    • 1⁄2 t sea salt
    • 1⁄4 t cayenne to taste
    • 1 1⁄2 C sweet potatoes, chopped
    • 2 1⁄2 C veggie broth (may need more)
    • 3⁄4 C creamy peanut butter
    • 3⁄4 C tomato juice1. Sautee onions in oil until transparent. Add carrots and spices. Continue sautéing about 5 minutes more.
    2. Add sweet potatoes and broth. Simmer until veggies are cooked through.
    3. Remove from heat. Add tomato juice and peanut butter. Process until smooth. Adjust consistency with more broth or tomato juice.
    4. Soup will thicken as it cools.

BruceMichael Wilson aims to shift the narrative for Black farmers

Reposted from Rapid Growth Media 9/23/2020

When a farmer’s first full year on the land falls in the midst of a global pandemic, that’s a pretty rough row to hoe. However, BruceMichael Wilson, owner of Groundswell Community Farm in Zeeland, has a rich history to fall back on. For one, he grew up on his family’s 160-acre farm in neighboring Allegan County. For an African American, this was a rarity. During the 20th century, as farmers became more dependent on credit to get started each spring, racist lending policies put Black farmers across the United States off their land. In fact, in 1920, 14% of all U.S. farms were owned by Black farmers. By 2012, that number had fallen to 1.4%. Sad to say, Michigan’s history tells the same story.

Wilson’s father purchased his farm in 1970. To ensure he would be allowed to do so, he kept his race a secret until he signed on the line at closing. Happy on the family farm, Wilson wrote, illustrated and published his first book, “Our Big Farm” at age six.

“My earliest recollection of being on the farm was helping with chores, gardening, and feeding livestock,” Wilson says. “Farming has always been in my DNA so when the opportunity presented itself [at Groundswell], I made it happen.”

Groundswell Community Farm is a vendor at Holland Farmers MarketFarmers Market at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, and Southeast Area Farmers’ Market in Grand Rapids. The farm offers Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and sells to Ottawa County food pantries and Doorganics.

Originally founded by food justice activists Katie Brandt and Tom Cary, Groundswell has a history that lends itself well to Wilson’s next endeavor: Dunyun, an enterprise that will train Black youth to be the farmers of a more equitable future. Named for the nickname his late brother gave him, Dunyun will transform the farm into an educational center where Black children from throughout West Michigan can dig into their African American agricultural heritage as well as into the soil.

“I’m going to promote being excited about being Black,” Wilson says. “Being proud of who you are is the single most important step. I’ve learned to be proud of myself and proud of my people.”

Wilson wants Black youth to grow up knowing about successful Black Americans in agriculture like Daniel Webster Wallace, who was born a slave in 1860, ran away to become a cowboy, and ended up owning his own ranch, where white ranchers stopped by for frequent advice.

BruceMichael Wilson, owner of Groundswell Community Farm in Zeeland“There are a lot of untold stories that young Black kids have never heard They need to picture themselves doing the same kinds of things to feel some worth,” Wilson says. “Learning about our people in general will move them one step further ahead.”

Being a Black farmer in Michigan has not been easy for Wilson. He feels that others in the farming community do not take him seriously. And, when a series of thefts happened on the farm, he chose not to report them for fear of the reaction he might get when law enforcement came out to take a report.

“I might get shot or killed,” he says. “I am afraid I would have a hard time convincing police that I was the farmer if they were to show up after daylight hours.”

The hope is that Dunyun will free future Black farmers from those very real fears.

“If you are designated a Black farm hand or laborer, then you earn more respect than being a Black farmer. That’s where most people feel you belong,” Wilson says. “Our mission to stay in business long enough to get the winning hand and change that narrative.”

When Dunyun starts bringing busloads of African American children to Groundswell Farm from Grand Rapids’ and the Lakeshore’s urban communities, that change will begin. Wilson concludes, “I can tell people that I might be the first Black USDA organic grower in the area, but I don’t have to be the last.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Interim Innovation News Editor
Photos courtesy Groundswell Community Farm

City of Grand Rapids issues media release re: state of civil emergency

unnamed (5)Mayor Rosalynn Bliss today signed a proclamation declaring a state of civil emergency and enacted a curfew in the City of Grand Rapids for the next 48 hours. The measures come following a night of violent protests and civil unrest downtown that resulted in substantial property damage and imminent threats of harm to community members and public safety officers.

The curfew is in effect 7 p.m. today through 5 a.m. Monday and 7 p.m. Monday through 5 a.m. Tuesday. It prevents community members from walking, running, loitering, standing or motoring upon any alley, street, highway, public property or vacant premises within the city of Grand Rapids. Community members may travel to and from work during the curfew.

All community members are urged to adhere to the curfew to help protect public safety.

For more on the curfew, CLICK HERE.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has authorized the state of emergency and has deployed the Michigan National Guard to assist with curfew enforcement and the protection of property in Grand Rapids.

“Our city and our partners have taken numerous actions to respond to and protect against this threat,” Bliss said. “We implore our residents and visitors to abide by this curfew so we can restore order and protect our residents. What happened in our city last night is beyond heartbreaking and is unacceptable. Violence, chaos and destruction have no place in our city. This does not represent who we are.

“Despite the sadness that overcame me last night, I am heartened by all the volunteers, downtown business and property owners, DGRI employees and staff from our Public Works and Parks department who came downtown first thing this morning to start the cleanup. They brought brooms, buckets and a desire to take back our city – and we are forever grateful. This is Grand Rapids – people coming together to take care of our city.”

During an afternoon media briefing this afternoon, City officials provided a recap of Saturday night’s events:

  • No injuries to community members or sworn officers
  • No loss of life
  • Seven arrests
  • 100 businesses impacted
  • Seven vehicle fires
  • Three structure fires
  • Several dumpster/trash fires

“What happened last night was totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “Our law enforcement officers will use every means of appropriate force to prevent another night of unrest.”

Washington addressed concerns alleging the Grand Rapids Police Department did not do enough to stop the violence and did not make more arrests.

“Our police headquarters was under attack last night. Protesters were trying to rush in and disrupt our command center. Our officers and partner agencies were focused on public safety and keeping protesters from impacting those operations. I am proud of our police department’s response to the events that transpired last night and I am grateful for their efforts to prevent injuries or loss of life – and they did this in a professional and respectful manner.”


Police Chief Eric Payne said he appreciated the overwhelming community support shown to his officers over the past 24 hours.


“Public safety is our top priority, and we are committed to keeping everyone safe at all times – especially under challenging circumstances,” he said. “I want to assure the community that we are using all of our tools to identify the perpetrators responsible for last night’s violence, put their faces out in public in the coming days and ask for the community’s help to identify them.


“I am very proud of the professionalism our officers displayed last night in light of some very difficult situations. I welcome the support of our partner agencies to enforce our curfew over the next couple of nights and trust the community will come together to end this unrest.”


Anyone with information about the criminal acts that took place Saturday are asked to contact the Grand Rapids Police Department at 616.456.3400 or Silent Observer at 774-2345 or at


To read the full state of civil emergency declaration, CLICK HERE.


To read the temporary curfew order, CLICK HERE.


# # #


La ciudad de Grand Rapids declara estado de emergencia civil, promulga toque de queda


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –– La alcaldesa Rosalynn Bliss firmó hoy una proclamación declarando un estado de emergencia civil y promulgó un toque de queda en la ciudad de Grand Rapids por las próximas 48 horas. Las medidas se producen después de una noche de protestas violentas y disturbios civiles en el centro que resultaron en daños sustanciales a la propiedad y amenazas inminentes de daño a los miembros de la comunidad y los oficiales de seguridad pública.


El toque de queda está vigente a las 7 p.m. hoy hasta las 5 a.m., lunes y 7 p.m. de lunes a 5 a.m. martes. Impide que los miembros de la comunidad caminen, corran, merodeen, se paren o conduzcan por cualquier callejón, calle, carretera, propiedad pública o local vacante dentro de la ciudad de Grand Rapids. Los miembros de la comunidad pueden viajar hacia y desde el trabajo durante el toque de queda.


Se insta a todos los miembros de la comunidad a cumplir con el toque de queda para ayudar a proteger la seguridad pública.


Para más información sobre el toque de queda, HAGA CLIC AQUÍ


La gobernadora Gretchen Whitmer ha autorizado el estado de emergencia y ha desplegado la Guardia Nacional de Michigan para ayudar con la aplicación del toque de queda y la protección de la propiedad en Grand Rapids.


“Nuestra ciudad y nuestros socios han tomado numerosas medidas para responder y protegerse contra esta amenaza”, dijo Bliss. “Imploramos a nuestros residentes y visitantes que cumplan con este toque de queda para que podamos restablecer el orden y proteger a nuestros residentes. Lo que sucedió en nuestra ciudad anoche es más que desgarrador y es inaceptable. La violencia, el caos y la destrucción no tienen lugar en nuestra ciudad. Esto no representa quienes somos.


“A pesar de la tristeza que me supero anoche, me animaron todos los voluntarios, dueños de negocios y propiedades del centro, empleados de DGRI y el personal de nuestro departamento de Obras Públicas y Parques que vinieron al centro esta mañana para comenzar la limpieza. Trajeron escobas, cubos y un deseo de recuperar nuestra ciudad, y estamos eternamente agradecidos. Esto es Grand Rapids: personas que se unen para cuidar a nuestra ciudad “.


Durante una sesión informativa de prensa esta tarde, los funcionarios de la Ciudad proporcionaron un resumen de los eventos del sábado por la noche:

  • Sin lesiones a miembros de la comunidad o oficiales jurados.
  • Sin pérdida de vidas
  • Siete arrestos
  • 100 empresas impactadas
  • Siete incendios de vehículos
  • Tres incendios estructurales
  • Varios basureros / incendios de basura


“Lo que sucedió anoche fue totalmente inaceptable y no será tolerado”, dijo el gerente de la ciudad Mark Washington. “Nuestros agentes del orden público utilizarán todos los medios de fuerza apropiados para evitar otra noche de disturbios”.


Washington abordó las preocupaciones alegando que el Departamento de Policía de Grand Rapids no hizo lo suficiente para detener la violencia y no realizó más arrestos.


“Nuestra sede de la policía fue atacada anoche. Los manifestantes estaban tratando de precipitarse e interrumpir nuestro centro de comando. Nuestros oficiales y agencias asociadas se centraron en la seguridad pública y en evitar que los manifestantes impactaran esas operaciones. Estoy orgulloso de la respuesta de nuestro departamento de policía a los eventos que ocurrieron anoche y estoy agradecido por sus esfuerzos para prevenir lesiones o pérdida de vidas, y lo hicieron de manera profesional y respetuosa “.


El jefe de policía Eric Payne dijo que apreciaba el abrumador apoyo de la comunidad mostrado a sus oficiales en las últimas 24 horas.


“La seguridad pública es nuestra principal prioridad, y estamos comprometidos a mantener a todos seguros en todo momento, especialmente en circunstancias difíciles”, dijo. “Quiero asegurarle a la comunidad que estamos utilizando todas nuestras herramientas para identificar a los responsables de la violencia de la noche anterior, poner sus rostros en público en los próximos días y pedir la ayuda de la comunidad para identificarlos.


“Estoy muy orgulloso de la profesionalidad que nuestros oficiales mostraron anoche a la luz de algunas situaciones muy difíciles. Agradezco el apoyo de nuestras agencias asociadas para hacer cumplir nuestro toque de queda durante las próximas dos noches y confío en que la comunidad se unirá para poner fin a este malestar ”.


Cualquier persona con información sobre los actos delictivos que tuvieron lugar el sábado debe comunicarse con el Departamento de Policía de Grand Rapids al 616.456.3400 o al Observador Silencioso al 774-2345 o al


Estzos documentos estaran disponibles en la pagina web de la Ciudad el domingo por la noche.


Heart of West Michigan United Way shares post about OKT Program for Growth

Reposted from Heart of West Michigan United Way Success Stories


OKT wins Community Spirit Award

123_1On October 10, women from Our Kitchen Table attended LINC Up’s Community Spirit Awards luncheon and evening program. During the luncheon, LINC announced OKT as winner of the 2019 Community Spirit Award for Health and Wellness. We are truly honored and humbled by this recognition.

LINC’s website says this about the award:
Neighborhoods are complex environments that are facing a series of complex issues. LINC Up understands that it takes many individuals and organizations with various approaches to achieve sustainable change. Each year, LINC celebrates and highlights the work of individuals and organizations influencing and effecting change in our communities. We believe in recognizing organizations with innovative ideas, those committed to advocacy work, youth making a difference in the community, and all of those working for neighborhoods that matter.

OKT receives $25,000 Amway Grant

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Amway has approved a $25,000 grant for Our Kitchen Table’s Program for Growth at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy. The funds will support programming that involves kindergarten and eighth-grade students and their parents and caregivers  in food growing and healthy eating education that addresses and helps prevent lead poisoning. The 49507 zip code is one of Michigan’s lead-poisoning hot-spots. Parents and caregivers involved in the Program for Growth meet regularly over the summer.

Happy holidays!



Have you considered giving to OKT? Our Kitchen Table receives most of its funding from grants … and additional funding from generous donors. If you would like to contribute to our work, please send your check to Our Kitchen Table, 334 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507. OKT is a registered 501c3 nonprofit and your contribution is tax deductible.

This entry was posted on December 22, 2016, in Press and tagged .

OKT Celebrates 2016 Successes

With your support and participation, here’s what OKT accomplished during 2016. We will be releasing our full, formal annual report soon!

greenhouse1Growing food!

OKT grew thousands of organic food starter plants at Blandford Farm. OKT gave away these fruit, vegetable, edible flower and herb plants to households in its residential food gardening program and select school and community gardens.

  • Residential Food Growing. OKT worked with eight households growing food in container and raised bed gardens in their yards, on their decks and patios and even on their window sills. OKT provided containers, composted soil, plants and seeds, basic garden tools and a weekly garden coach visit. In all, OKT residential food growers grew about  2,500 pounds of food.
  • Garden Education. OKT hosted its food growing education series twice. Each series including How to Plan Your Food Garden 1 & 2, Composting, How to Save Seeds and Introduction to Food Justice. Though designed for OKT’s residential food growers, the classes were open to the pubic at no charge. OKT, Baxter Community Center and Urban Roots coordinated growing classes to maximize benefit to community.
  • School Window Gardens. OKT worked with students at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy, where they grew food in windowsill gardens. All food grown was eaten by the students in healthy snacks or brought home to their families.
  • Community and Agency Gardens. OKT provided organic starter food plants to nine community and agency gardens.

Raising Awareness

OKT raised awareness about food justice and policy issues via its ten-part Food Policy for Food Justice series, website, Facebook and at numerous conferences throughout Michigan and at Grand Rapids-based community and university events.

0211161804Healthy Eating Strategies

Cook, Eat and Talk . OKT’s cooking coaches presented one-session, two-session, four-session and eight-session healthy eating series in partnership with various agencies and for its growers and community.

Women of Color Series

OKT brought in recognized community activists from various Michigan organizations to speak on Being a White Ally — Lila Cabbil and Barbara Roos; Uprooting Racism — Shane Bernardo; Herbal Medicine — Lottie Spady; , Food as Medicine — Adela Nieves; and Diagramming Your Food System — Shakara Taylor.

Southeast Area Farmers’ Market

13882561_1253537447998287_2460462587423020698_nIn 2016, OKT decided to hold both its Friday and Saturday markets at MLK Jr. Park, 900 Fuller St. SE. The park setting brought increased traffic to our market vendors. OKT estimates that 656 patrons visited the market  to generate $8,100 in sales.

  • Vendors: A total of nine vendors sold local, safe produce, cottage foods, crafts and Watkins products. Ninety percent of market vendors were women of color from Grand Rapids southeast neighborhoods.
  • Food Assistance Dollars. The market participated in SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, Senior Project Fresh, WIC, and a new UCC/OKT program, SEAFM Market Bucks, which provided $1 and $5 coupons good for produce at the market.  One-third of sales were Market Buck purchases.
  • Community Partners.  The market hosted a wide range of community partners who shared their resources with market patrons: Planned Parenthood, The Spoke Folks, Grand Rapids Food Co-op Initiative, Great Start Collaborative,  LINC-Up Soul Food Café, Creative Youth Center, Grand Rapids Fire Department , Voice GR and Healthy Homes.
  • Community Events The Market hosted several fun, family friendly events: Urban Foraging Workshop, Fried Green Tomato Festival, Make Your Own Personal Care Items Workshop, Art at the Market and Greens Cook-off.






This entry was posted on December 8, 2016, in Press and tagged .

Encore blog post featured OKT executive director

Did you ever wonder where Our Kitchen Table got its start? Here’s the story. Reposted from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation Encore program blog.


LisaOliverKingPhotoResized_1As a youngster, few things struck Lisa Oliver so profoundly as the moments she would join her family around the kitchen table where she grew up in Missouri, just to talk. “A lot of good, good and difficult and funny and serious conversations happened around this table,” she says, as she runs her hands over the smoky glass top. The table now resides in the kitchen of the home she shares with her husband and daughters on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.

Years after serving as a gathering place during her childhood days, the table continued to spawn ideas and it was over wine with a friend years ago that she was challenged to develop a program that might amp up environmental and social justice.

Fast forward to today and Lisa is founder and director of “Our Kitchen Table,” (OKT) a quiet force that empowers urban neighborhoods to improve their health and monitor sometimes life-threatening environments through education, advocacy and community organizing.

“I really wanted to have my children understand the importance of giving back,” she says, acknowledging that her daughters know the power of communicating around the magic table. “It was important that I talk to them and have them understand the value and effect of community.”

Our Kitchen Table didn’t appear on Lisa’s early horizons, but it definitely comprises her Encore life, and reflects a life of service in other areas, all of which helped to build on the concept that drives the success of her non-profit.

She worked in the public health sector well into her 40s, including jobs with the Kent County Health Department, the Michigan Public Health Institute, and Hospice of Michigan. She also did consulting work around public health and it’s during that period that a girlfriend stopped Lisa in her tracks during that table talk and suggested “You should move beyond consulting and do some real community engagement.”

Lisa was more than intrigued and was led by a variety of factors to explore the problems around lead poisoning and how it affected human health and the environment. That concern branched out to explore strategies for mobilizing low-income families, mostly on Grand Rapid’s southeast side and, in 2003, she founded OKT to combat oppression, race and gender bias, and disparities in wealth and power.

Banking on strong social networks, OKT empowers families with the tools to develop homegrown foods even on properties threatened by soils with suspected or actual high lead levels. OKT teaches residents how to grow crops in containers and take full advantage of the Southeast Area Farmer’s Market, which is moving this June through mid-November to Martin Luther King Park at Franklin Street and Fuller Avenue SE.

It’s there that OKT will continue partnering with the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council and the Kent County Health Department to host educational events and participate in the Bridge Card (SNAP), Michigan Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Project Fresh, Kent County Health Department coupons and DoubleUp Food Bucks programs.

Lisa views her participation as a chance to immerse herself in community and make a difference with a program that meets basic human needs and lifts up families with education as a core element.

“We promote growing from a systemic lens and from understanding what is going on in the community,” she says. “And we look at the entire food landscape, everything from grocery stores to wild edibles to pantries to food-buying clubs and co-ops.

“I don’t do charity,” she emphasizes. “I just do what I’m supposed to do. I’m my brother’s keeper, and I try to emphasize that. It’s the best way to use my gifts, to help people express kindness. It’s what we should be to each other.”