Vegetarian Detroit Podcast: Episode 1
What impact have past events had on Detroit’s food system today? Billy Wall-Winkel, Assistant Curator & Oral Historian with the Detroit Historical Society talks to Jewell Dziendziel about the history of Detroit’s access to fresh, healthy food. Billy has a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Wayne State University and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public History and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management. Billy’s focus is on Detroit and how the city intersects with race, urban development, and urban farming.
There were a lot of things that took place years ago that have impacted Detroit’s food system today. This episode starts off with Billy discussing how the Farm-A-Lot program in the 70’s set the foundation for Detroit’s urban farms today. Although urban farms were successful, Billy explains the barriers that black grocers faced and why it was so difficult to keep big box grocery stores in the city. Billy adds that discrimination didn’t only affect loans and housing, but also access to food. Old produce, expired food, and moldy bread was often sold for more money to black residents. The lack of fresh food, forced Detroiters to get their food from gas stations, convenient stores or fast food chains.
On a positive note, it seems the city is headed in the right direction. Today, there are many urban farms all over Detroit and the city is supporting black entrepreneurship. Raphael Wright is opening a community owned grocery store in Jefferson Chalmers and the Detroit People’s Food Co-Op is opening a grocery store in the North End. Despite Detroit’s struggles, there are a lot of people that are stepping up to, as Raphael Wright says, “make the hood great again.”
You can catch Billy Wall-Winkel at the Detroit Historical Museum in Midtown Detroit. For more info on the Detroit Historical Society, visit detroithistorical.org. For more info on the organizations discussed in this episode, visit the following links.
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