Devita Davison’s visit to Australia – reflections

As everyone who saw her will attest, Devita Davison of Foodlab Detroit left an amazing impression after a whirlwind three days in Melbourne, visiting Darebin, William Angliss Institute and Pakenham for the Cardinia Food Forum. These are her reflections at the end of her trip to Australia:

Wow! My time spent in Australia was simply transforming, it was a trip of a lifetime and there are simply no words that can describe how thankful I am for your hospitality during my visit and all the effort that went into arranging my trip!

 

I made it back to Detroit safe & sound and after a couple of days of rest & quiet reflection, I am even more enthused about the many assets all over Australia fueling’s the country’s local food economy. 
 
There is no doubt that Australia’s future is bright; a future where the country’s food system offers opportunities for growers, entrepreneurs, workers, and eaters. A future that honors community food partners working tirelessly to create an inclusive environment where everyone has access to good food. The challenge is how do you develop a strategic approach to cultivating a local food system that works for all Australians, even the most vulnerable! 

Years from now, I hope you’ll look back on my visit and you’ll say that this was the moment when you remembered what it means to have hope. All over Australia I talked about hope; but you and I know that hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in your path.

 

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Hope is not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it!

Hope is what I saw in the eyes of Denise Delphin as she proudly walked me around the beautiful, brand new Northern Suburbs Community Center and talked to me about their local community gardens, cooking classes and veggie bags – all programs mostly driven by the community!

Hope is what I heard in the voices of the diverse stakeholders at the Inaugural Cardinia Food Forum.  At this moment I know communities across Cardinia are experiencing  a number of social and health problems that are linked to the food system across the Shire; but what I heard at the food forum was a clear blueprint for solving those challenges. I am so excited for the leadership that the Cardinia Food Movement has demonstrated — and with a bottom-up approach, I know they will work hard to ensure that everyone has access to fresh, healthy food.

​Always remember, my dear friends, that hope was the bedrock of Detroit’s food movement. Detroiters believed that our destiny would not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who were not content to settle for the city as it was, who had the courage to remake the local food system as it should be.

I’ll never forget that my journey began in the bottom of church basements doing what so many of you are doing all across Australia right now – organizing people and working and fighting to make people’s lives just a little bit better.

 
I know how hard it is. It comes with little sleep, little pay and a lot of sacrifice. There are days of disappointment. But sometimes, just sometimes, there will be days, years from now, when we’ve made the changes we all believe in, when more families in historically impacted neighborhoods can shop at healthy, high-road food businesses, when our children — when my niece, Aaliyah, and your children inherit a planet that’s a little cleaner, when we see more multi-tenant processing, distribution and kitchen facilities accessible to small, mid-size and start-up farm and food businesses, when we strengthen the connections between healthcare and food and begin to partner with community based organizations to expand neighborhood food access, you’ll be able to look back with pride and say that this was the moment when it all began.

With all my heart I believe good food for all is possible and that all communities deserve access to good food, grown in a way that respects people and the planet.

We are forever connected and by working together, across the globe, we can create local food systems rooted in equity and access, support for farmers and food workers, environmental stewardship and free from hunger.

Thank you again for an amazing trip!  You haven’t gotten rid of me either!  I’ll be back to Australia soon and I hope you’re consider visiting me in Detroit!
In good food solidarity, your friend and colleague,
Devita Davison
Executive Director
FoodLab Detroit
Here’s the feedback from organiser supremo Dr Luke Craven who we can all thank for bringing Devita to our shores:
A really massive heartfelt thank you from me for all the hard work you put into making Devita’s trip to Melbourne a success. Devita didn’t think I could take her somewhere that would one-up the way she feels about Detroit, but we succeeded! — she’s excited by the unique intersection of people, place, and passion that makes Melbourne special. And, unsurprisingly, has come away emboldened that using food to build local living economies is possible, because you all have already done so much and have laid the foundations for much more.

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