Program for Growth gardens all set to feed families!

Participants of Our Kitchen Table’s Program for Growth are already harvesting some fresh, organic produce from their gardens and looking forward to an abundant summer season.  Ms. Doris shares, “I have collards, turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and sweet herb [stevia]. I’m just loving it!”

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Photo courtesy Miss Doris and Stephen Smith.

Cherry Health to host virtual “Shifting from Moment to Movement” discussion on Juneteenth

generic-cherry-health-heart-of-the-city-health-centerCherry Health will host a virtual panel discussion on Juneteenth titled, “Shifting from Moment to Movement.” The livestream event, which will feature local leaders and change agents, is focused on continuing the conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement, policing and policy changes, and organizational diversity and inclusion, with the goal of providing perspective on moving beyond the inequities in our community to turn this moment into a movement.

WHAT:           ‘Shifting from Moment to Movement’ Virtual Panel Discussion

WHEN:          2 p.m., Friday, June 19, 2020

 WHERE:        Visit Cherry Health’s Facebook page to access the livestream:


Moderator Tasha Blackmon – President and CEO, Cherry Health

  • Micah Foster – Executive Director, Grand Rapids African American Institute
  • Graci Harkema – President and CEO, Graci LLC
  • Joe Jones – President and CEO, Urban League of West Michigan
  • Michelle LaJoye-Young – Kent County Sheriff
  • Tessa K. Muir – President, Junior League of Grand Rapids

Local bakery raising funds for OKT via Worldwide Virtual Bake Sale through June 20

The people of Field & Fire Bakery & Cafe have a reputation for doing good. They have regularly donated unsold bread to pantries and non-profits and held annual fundraisers for Grand Rapids Public Schools, Blandford Nature Center, Feeding West Michigan, The Pantry,  and Well House.
They host local artists, typically women, and sell their artwork at the cafe.
“We’re members of Local First, so we participate in all of their events,” says owner, Julie Kibler.  “We’re also members of Slow Food West Michigan. Most of the outreach we participate in is centered around food, women, kids, and health.
BLM_CookieKibler shares that she and her family have been moved by the renewed movement for Black Lives Matter and want to do more to help fight racism.
So, they decided to join  Baker’s Against Racism, a global group sponsoring a Worldwide Virtual Bake Sale to support Black Lives Matter from June 15 through 20. Field & Fire decided to donate the funds they raise to OKT.
“After some talking and googling, we found that the official BLM group in GR had been abandoned. We wanted to help a real grass roots group that could really use the funding,” Kibler says. “Food desserts are just another way to oppress black and brown people. Our goal with this effort is to approach racism from a slightly different angle, and that is justice through BLM_Breadfood. We’ve been pushing healthy eating for the last seven years, and it’s time to push it in a new direction.”
Grand Rapids area folks can place an order online for field & Fire’s BLM Sugar Cookies for pick up at either of the eatery’s locations, the bakery in the Downtown Market or the cafe on Monroe.

Black lives matter — but not to the nuclear industry

Reposted from Beyond Nuclear

“Black communities get more promises than jobs — and they get pollution and they get sick”

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Systemic racism in the nuclear industrial complex has endured for decades. Every community of color has been affected. As we confront the wider impact of centuries of racism in the US, we take a closer look specifically at discrimination against African Americans in the nuclear power sector.

The shackles of slavery may be gone, but there is now a knee on the neck of African American voices, whether literal or metaphorical, when it comes to challenging injustice. And it is there when confronting the bias of the nuclear power industry and other lethal polluters. It is quite deliberately there. It is there not only to oppress — and in the case of George Floyd to kill — but to silence and disenfranchise. To stunt movements for change.

Mati poster 2 copy

That is perhaps how the NAACP’s A.C. Garner, felt after the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) dismissed black concerns over a proposed new nuclear power plant in Mississippi in 2005. It was, he said,  like “posting a ‘WHITES ONLY’ sign on the hearing room door.”

Garner’s statement was a reaction to a January 19, 2005 decision by the NRC to grant permission for a second nuclear reactor to be built at the Grand Gulf site in Mississippi. It was to be built in the poorest county in the state, itself the poorest state in the union.

It would join Grand Gulf Unit 1, opened in 1985 in the Claiborne County city of Port Gibson, and would be known as Grand Gulf Unit 3, as all there is of Unit 2 is an empty concrete pad— the plant owners, Entergy, having asked the NRC to revoke that planned reactor’s license in 1991.

Grand Gulf 1, the largest single unit in the country, with an output of around 1,500 MW, is located in a community that is 87% African American, with a poverty rate of 46% according to census data. The median household income in Claiborne County is $24,601 per year. At least 35% of the population depends on Medicaid. The Covid-19 infection rate there is still headed on an upward trajectory.

Back in 2005, the county was already ill prepared for a health crisis of any sort. It had just one crumbling hospital, struggling to meet the needs of a deprived community and with zero capacity to handle a nuclear emergency. Evacuation routes were washed out and impassible. The police force was completely under-equipped.

“The county doesn’t even have a hospital that’s open 24 hours, and there’s only one fire station in the entire county,” Rose Johnson, chairwoman of the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club, told the Jackson Free Press at the time. “The situation should send chills down the spines of anyone who lives within a 100-mile radius of Port Gibson.”

Why such deprivation? Why weren’t Port Gibson and Claiborne County flush with the tax revenues the plant should have brought in? Because in 1986, fearing price hikes for the “too cheap to meter” electricity generated by Grand Gulf nuclear Unit 1, Entergy succeeded in getting the predominantly white Mississippi legislature to pass a bill to redistribute more than 70% of those tax revenues to 47 other counties in the state. It is the only reactor community in the country that does not reap the lion’s share of its nuclear plant tax dollars.

The law left an already poor black community even more desperately deprived. But it pre-empted any complaints about increased electricity costs from whiter communities elsewhere in the state.

By the time of the 2005 NRC decision, the agency had also conveniently ruled that issues of environmental justice such as racism, fairness and economic equity would not be considered litigable during reactor licensing proceedings. It was a move clearly designed to silence black voices. “Whites Only” was indeed firmly nailed to the door.

It’s an old story, one of systemic racism throughout the nuclear sector.

It began with the uranium mining conducted largely by Native Americans, without protection and unaware of the health risks. It continued with the Trinity test, irradiating downwinders, many of them from Native American and Hispanic communities.

Then the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an act of racism that did not pass unnoticed by the African American community, many of whom — including Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, James Baldwin, and Marian Anderson — came out to join the nuclear freeze movement.

The US atomic tests carried out overseas blasted the atolls of the Marshallese, treated as guinea pigs and described by a US official as “more like us than mice.” The domestic tests were conducted on land belonging to the Western Shoshone.

The British tested their bombs at Maralinga in Australia, on Aboriginal homelands. The Belgians mined their uranium in the African Congo. The French tested atomic weapons on Algerians in the Sahara, then moved to the South Pacific islands.

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Back in the US,  Hispanic communities such as Sierra Blanca, TX were targeted for nuclear waste dumps, a trend that has continued; with the choice of Yucca Mountain, on Western Shoshone land, as the place to host the country’s high-level nuclear waste; with the imposition of unwanted new nuclear reactors and the huge nuclear weapons complex at the Savannah River Site, which would poison black communities. And on and on.

It is a culture and a practice that have never changed. In a 2016 paper — Emerging Environmental Justice Issues in Nuclear Power and Radioactive Contamination — published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, academics Dean Kyne and Bob Bolin noted that the NRC’s “growing constraints” in public participation spoke to “who is or is not recognized as worthy of inclusion in decision-making regarding the allocation of hazard burdens.”

They described the culture at the NRC as reinforcing “a tradition of secrecy, denial, and misinformation that has long been part of the nuclear industrial complex.”

They further noted that while “federal agencies are mandated to identify and address adverse human health and environmental impacts on minority and low-income populations,” this does not apply to the NRC, for whom it is “not mandatory” but merely “voluntary.” In allowing this level of discretion over what issues may be considered an environmental justice concern, “not surprisingly, 76 percent were labeled as being of ‘small significance’,” the authors wrote.

“The NRC once again bowed to its master — the nuclear industry — to pave the way for construction in an area where they expect least resistance,” said Garner of the Grand Gulf 3 debacle. (As it turns out, Entergy canceled Grand Gulf 3 in February 2015, when its lousy economics finally wouldn’t stand up).

Raw Pixel Shutter

The forced imposition of a dangerous and polluting industrial installation on a poor community of color in desperate need of jobs remains an age-old tactic of corporations and governments. In challenging Grand Gulf 3 before its cancelation, residents of Port Gibson rightly asked why, if a new nuclear power plant was such an economy-boosting bonanza, the area was still the poorest in the country two decades after the first reactor came on line?

Residents of Burke County, Georgia, are asking similar questions. The county itself is about evenly divided between black and white populations, but the communities of Shell Bluff and Waynesboro, poor and black, have been the hardest hit by nuclear installations in the area. Today, 40.9% of the children there live below the federal poverty line, with a higher rate of childhood poverty than 86.8% of U.S. neighborhoods. Waynesboro is 70.4% black.

The poisoning of surrounding communities began in the 1950s, when an entire town was relocated to make way for the massive Savannah River Site (SRS) atomic bomb factory just across the river and state line, near Aiken, SC— the place where tritium and plutonium was produced for nuclear weapons.

In the 1980s, a whistleblower named William Lawless revealed how the US Department of Energy, which owns SRS, had been dumping cardboard boxes filled with nuclear waste into trenches, where the boxes had leaked their deadly inventory into the groundwater.

In 1987, two nuclear reactor units came on line at Plant Vogtle, just 10 miles from Shell Bluff and 18 miles from Waynesboro. Cancer rates started to creep up. Then, against the objections of the local black community, the green light was given for two more reactors to be built at Plant Vogtle.

The decision was made all the more painful given that it was Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, who came in person to announce the Vogtle 3 and 4 go-ahead, sweetening it with a $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee and flanked for his big media moment by two white guys.  Meanwhile, Vogtle 3 and 4 are both still under construction, wildly over budget and way behind schedule and with a micro-epidemic of Covid-19 cases among the workforce.

What Will the Hunger Industrial Complex Look Like After Covid-19?


Andrew Fisher is the author of Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.

By Andrew Fisher 

Reposted from Food Bank News, APRIL 22, 2020

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, normal wasn’t so great for the working poor in America. Despite a 10-year recovery, 12 percent of the nation remained food insecure in 2018. The state of affairs was so economically unsustainable that food banks doubled their distribution from 2009 to 2019, to 5.25 billion pounds, serving 40 million people.

And now in 2020, with 22 million people thrown out of work in just a few weeks and an administration unable to muster much empathy for their plight, much less the cash to keep their refrigerators stocked, food banks have stepped in again to fill the void left by an absentee government. This time, however, food banks have gained more visibility, not just as the safety net under the (shredded) safety net, but as a front-line response. The miles-long lines of motorists waiting for a few sacks of groceries have become seared into the public imagination, a meme of the collective isolation and powerlessness many of us feel in the hands of an incompetent government. Charity has become the governing metaphor of the pandemic response, replacing justice, which itself has been placed on a ventilator.

But the food to feed people and the money with which to buy that food has to come from somewhere. And just as it has for the past few decades, it’s the alliance between anti-hunger organizations, the USDA, and corporate America, or the hunger industrial complex, that provides. It is this paradigm that is filling the vacuum left by Trump’s sociopathy, and as James Bailey, a management professor at George Washington University says, “Every crisis creates a void. And whatever force fills that void, inherits power.”

We should all be concerned that, in the post-pandemic era, the hunger industrial complex becomes more robust at the expense of the movement for fair wages, strong nutrition programs, and universal health care. Frankly, the unholy alliance between food banks and corporate America has shown itself to be more interested in maintaining the problem of hunger than actually solving it.

The existence of this unholy alliance poses the fundamental question of: “Why end hunger when anti-hunger work is so profitable to all parties?” Through supporting anti-hunger organizations, corporations reduce their labor costs, garbage disposal fees, and tax bills while building their reputations as socially responsible firms.

For food banks, hard times are good times. Their fundraising soars during recessions, and all too often they measure their success in the number of pounds that they distribute. The higher the poundage, the more they appear to be successful, and the more the donations come flowing in.

During this crisis, Big Food and Ag are doubling  down on the hunger industrial complex as a way to enhance their reputation. Consider the following examples:

Smithfield, the nation’s largest pork producer, has donated an extra $3 million and 10 million pounds of protein to food banks. It’s also been sued successfully multiple times for its racist practices of siting its hog factories next to impoverished African American communities. And it has come under fire for propagating the pandemic at its South Dakota processing plant, where over 500 workers have fallen ill with Covid-19.

At Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos recently donated $100 million to Feeding America. Amazon is both poised to be one of the two largest redeemers of online SNAP, sales, and has been revealed to be the largest employer of SNAP recipients in multiple states.

The current crisis presents an unparalleled organizing opportunity. But are food banks taking advantage of this crisis to make broader structural changes? How many food banks are doubling down on advocacy as tens of millions of new clients come through the door? How many food banks are including voter registration cards and SNAP-related action alerts in the grocery bags?  Or are food banks retrenching, eliminating their small social justice-oriented programs in favor of mobilizing all hands on deck to deal with increased demand? What’s the post-pandemic vision for the role of the sector on the part of Feeding America?

Going back to the old normal is no longer a tenable choice. The hunger industrial complex needs to be diminished in favor of a stronger government response — one that strengthens the social safety net while guaranteeing living wages and better working conditions for all. And food banks can be agents of change or keep themselves, as one former food bank CEO once told me, “mainstream, rich and respectable.”

Andrew Fisher has worked in the anti-hunger field for 25 years, as the executive director of national and local food groups, and as a researcher, organizer, policy advocate, and coalition builder. He is the author of “Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.”

Ready, set, grow!

Our Kitchen Table Program for Growth participants were busy during the month of May!

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In addition to planting cold crops like kale and herbs, they also got their containers and raised beds ready for the warm season crops, which will be delivered soon. Farmer Williams delivered premium, healthy soil and helped construct raised beds, including OKT’s first waist-high raised-bed, designed to make growing food more accessible. Participants were careful to follow social distancing guidelines. Program for Growth weekly meetings are continuing via Zoom conferencing.

Team OKT claims success in virtual #Walk4GoodFood2020

It’s not to late to donate to Team OKT! Click here!

Doris Johnson and her grandchildren completing the #Walk4GoodFood2020

For the past 42 years, hunderds of folks from all over the greater Grand Rapids area have walked annually to raise funds to help those with income challenges to access healthy food. Access of West Michigan did not let COVID-19 sideline the tradition. Instead of gathering walkers for one walk downtown, the #Walk4GoodFood2020 was completed by individuals and family groups who walked following social distancing guidelines during their own chosen times between May 3 and May 13.

Our Kitchen Table’s team included 29 team members. A special shout out to our Program for Growth participants who joined up!  Team OKT met its fundraising goals. In addition, corporate sponsor, Edenz, donated $500.

As a #Walk4GoodFood recipient agency, OKT will use funds received to help support its Southeast Area Farmers’ Market.

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.


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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.