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Reflections from GVSU food summit: Good food + good community = good health 

  • Photo of a sign that says farm fresh.
  • Photo of people talking at event.
  • About 100 people, including farmers, business and nonprofit leaders, students and educators came together January 31 to discuss food access and food system challenges.
  • About 100 people, including farmers, business and nonprofit leaders, students and educators came together January 31 to discuss food access and food system challenges.
  • Photo of a sign that lists topics to discuss.

Posted on January 31, 2020

About 100 people, including farmers, business and nonprofit leaders, students and educators came together January 31 to discuss food access and food system challenges.

The 2020 Growing Connections Food Summit, sponsored by Grand Valley's Office of Sustainability Practices, was held in Loosemore Auditorium on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. 

Participants worked in groups to share thoughts and ideas about how to build a healthy food system. Topics included land access, food and medicine, migrant workers, food safety and climate-conscious practices, to name a few.

Lance Kraai, farm director of New City Neighbors, a faith-based nonprofit in Grand Rapids, said New City's main objective is providing employment to high school youth, but their outreach has expanded through a garden and farm share they operate on the city's northeast side.

"We have an opportunity to empower youth by connecting them to a healthy food system," said Kraai. "Good food and a good community produce good health." 

Eleanor Moreno, director of community engagement at The Other Way Ministries, discussed exploitative practices in the food system.

Youssef Darwich, farm manager and educator for the GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project, explained how SAP has served as a great connector of people including Grand Valley students and students from area K-12 schools.

SAP, which started as a community garden, now offers classes, internships and volunteer opportunities, along with a mobile market. SAP also supplies fruits and vegetables to campus dining.

"We can learn great lessons from nature," said Darwich. "Students learn by doing at the farm, working with their hands. Their dreams are nurtured. There is great value in learning some of the old concepts of farming. Some of our greatest gifts come from the soil."

Darwich mentioned SAP's work with willow biomass as a renewable energy source and a way to block runoff.