TENN continues to tackle Detroit’s food system in creative ways

During the Winter 2024 semester, Titan Equity Nourishment Network (TENN) is continuing its impactful work by expanding its reach to address the difficulties within the Detroit food system. 

TENN’s program manager, Chelsea Manning, has demonstrated strong leadership in the desire to improve access to nutritious food. 

“We focus on trying to provide fresh produce… it’s one of the hardest things to get,” she said. 

TENN is maintaining its weekly produce delivery program which provides 55 Detroit households with a bag of fresh foods from Gleaners Community Food Bank. The program has extended by adding a biweekly produce delivery which provides 80 senior citizens with a bag of fresh foods. 

In efforts to raise awareness of programs like this, TENN will have its annual Food Fest event this Spring. The event is a celebration of food culture at the University of Detroit Mercy. 

“It is more of a way to engage students in the topics that we work with and try to get more familiarity,” Manning said. 

Organizing events like this can stir up some difficulties so the program manager comprises a planning committee. They meet every two weeks to discuss logistics and activities. 

“I have one student delegate jobs,” she said. 

The marketing for an event is given to a decided group who then coordinates how they will publicize the event and make sure everyone is aware of it. 

When it comes to the newest addition, Cari Gamlin, TENN’s sustainability manager, gave insight into Plate-to-Planet, which started Jan. 2024 in the Titan Dining Room. Plate-to-Planet is through the organization Make Food Not Waste. The emphasis is to create awareness of food waste. 

“We started with an auditing week… where we looked at the initial baseline basically of how is on average, for each day, and how much food waste we are starting at,” Gamlin said. “We have a scale next to where students drop off their plates. It used to be that they would just throw their food off into a garbage can but now that garbage can is on a scale. We are calculating the total weight at the end of each lunch shift.”

The project connects to other universities too.

She added, “Every day we’ve been monitoring it to create statistics to highlight and it’s being compared to many other campuses from other schools.”

In TDR, there is a whiteboard displaying TENN’s found statistics. It shows, in relation to TDR, the ratio of food waste to carbon emissions. The goal is to remind students to be more mindful and encourage students to limit food waste. 

TENN is also focusing on creating more services to support the community. Fatima Herrera, sustainability assistant manager, expressed future hopes to have a plant or thrift store swap.

“We are not entirely sure how it would work logistically and what obstacles we would have to jump through but those are big projects that we would like to do,” Herrera said.

In addition, TENN continues its garden behind the College of Health Professionals. Katie Ruhno, the garden manager, suggested that TENN may begin prep sooner for bigger successes. Evidentially, setup can be expected as soon as April this year.

Manning said, “Last summer, we harvested over 400 pounds of food that we gave out from our garden.”

With a lot of TENN’s team graduating this semester, they are looking for more students to get involved. The team members are willing to guide those interested. 

“We are all willing to help each other out,” Ruhno said.

TENN is open to new ideas and support in furthering its mission to improve the Detroit food system. It is seeking to build and create more connections with the local community.