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Natural Awakenings Healthy Living Magazine

Peace Tree Parks and Relish: Feeding Detroit

Nonprofit Peace Tree Parks works to convert vacant land into gardens and beautify the city while increasing access to fresh produce in the community. Relish is a catering company that connects people through the universal language of food.

In 2015, when the nonprofit was established, the city had been a food desert for almost a decade. High school friends Eric Andrews and D’Andre Riggins began this movement after noticing an increase in vacant land, a lack of grocery stores, and realizing the need for more access to fresh organic produce and healthy food options. In 2018, Relish connected by dropping off compost; that led to volunteer events and picking produce straight from the garden to cook meals onsite to feed volunteers.

Their community garden program, which has converted 13 vacant lots, is for residents in the surrounding area to pick produce at no charge. Peace Tree Parks also offers farm-to-school programming and has collaborated with schools in the Detroit Public School District to implement aspects of their programming. They provide supplies and teach students the skills needed to grow their own produce. Peace Tree Parks actively collaborates with Black-owned food businesses such as local chefs to cook at their community events.

As an awareness campaign for Peace Tree Parks to educate community members about the variety of produce that could be grown in Detroit, they hosted volunteer events each month where they taught people how to plant, maintain their garden and harvest crops, working with the Detroit Land Bank Authority to begin repurposing vacant land throughout the city into community spaces. This partnership led to a process that now allows neighborhoods across the city to duplicate the concept that was developed at their first community garden site.

Andrews says, “So, we started growing produce. We grew everything from watermelon, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and strawberries. It was more of an awareness thing; we wanted to show the community that this is the variety of produce that you can grow in your backyard.”

The nonprofit also helps members appreciate the value of volunteering by allowing them to have a hands-on therapeutic and inspiring experience and remind others that a plant will grow when given the time, consistency and care: a concept which their organization was founded upon from taking their idea (seed) and now harvesting what they have produced in the last decade through consistency and care.

#ProjectFeedTheBlock is an initiative to feed more families and support this community in the city of Detroit. Relish is working on a collaborative, land-based project with  Peace Tree Parks to construct a 42-foot-long greenhouse and food experience that will increase the access that community members have to fresh organic produce and creatively curated meals.

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