WDET's Raw Feed

Food security FOR ALL is our moral imperative

by: Mikel Ellcessor

February 4, 2013


Did you wonder where your food was going to come from today? Or whether you would be able to get enough to quiet that gnaw in your center?

No, I didn't either.

Do you feel a desire to turn away?

Please don't. Keep reading.

Today, WDET premieres "Back to Basics, WDET explores Detroit's Food Economy." This is a special series that takes a comprehensive look at the ways Detroit's food economy does, and does not, work for many city residents – particularly families with young children.

The reality of American food insecurity is a hard message to encounter, but unless Detroit embraces a rising tide of opportunity for ALL we will never see a recovery that leaves us satisfied. This is particularly true for the least secure in our society – our kids.

WDET has been developing "Back to Basics" for the last six months. This series is WDET's first major foray into enterprise journalism. In the series you will meet dozens of health professionals, food security, urban agriculture and food policy leaders and many fellow citizens. One of the people you will meet is Mari Gallagher, the author of a 2007 report of Detroit's food security and economy.

WDET's inclusion of her work is indicative of the "Back to Basics" approach – analytical, data inclusive, people-centric. WDET's reporting has surfaced dozens of disturbing data points on our food economy and the options it presents to our neighbors:

-- More than half of Detroit residents live in areas that are far out-of-balance in terms of day-to-day food availability.
-- Only 8% of food stamp retailers in Detroit are full-service grocery stores, meaning 92% of Detroit food stamp retailers are gas stations, dollar stores, convenience stores, liquor stores and pharmacies. Many of them do not comply with federal standards to accept food stamps.
-- Detroiters spend $200 million each year at grocery stores outside of the city.

WDET has made the health and well being of our children an area of ongoing concern and coverage. Our theory of change has been built on Community Impact Campaigns like Music Head, Kyle's Challenge and Books for Kids – approaches where we mobilize wide-spread community action and direct energy and awareness toward vital community organizations.

Wading straight into the middle of the food security issue will not be popular with everyone in our community. WDET has faced that prospect before. For the last several years, WDET's Crossing the Lines series has consistently put a light on the regions’ persistent willingness to discount people based on their zip code and we have called out the worst excesses, like Benny Napoleon's recent "Palmer Woods" statement.

WDET has chosen long-lead enterprise journalism as our approach for this issue because it was clear the topic required the treatment. Thankfully, we have a large and expanding community of sustaining members. Their monthly financial support provides WDET with institutional stability and allows WDET to put enormous resources into complex projects like "Back to Basics."

You, too, can be a part of the solution.

As you listen to the reports, comment on the stories at wdet.org or on Facebook and explore the interactive features, I hope you will take a moment to pause, reflect and remember and say to yourself, "By widening the circle of awareness, I helped make it happen."

Please participate. Connect with your fellow WDET listeners and share these stories with your network.

You are part of WDET's bedrock and we appreciate the trust and commitment you have placed in our work.


J. Mikel Ellcessor
General Manager
WDET, Detroit