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Eater’s Almanac: Free of judgment

Fresh Food Initiative

Eater’s Almanac is our weekly newsletter for the Huss Project Farmer’s Market. You can receive a print copy each week at the market, which includes a recipe for seasonal vegetables!

 “Food justice does not simply mean access to food; more complexly, food justice means having the opportunity to make food choices without being judged.” 

Philip Ackerman-Leist in Rebuilding the Footed

On the third Saturday of each month, the Huss Project hosts the Fresh Food Initiative, an effort of the Southwest Michigan Food Bank to get fresh produce and other groceries into the hands of households in need. At the distribution, no one polices household income. Rather, the culture is one of trust and welcome to all. 

During market season, many families who come to the Fresh Food Initiative for free groceries also visit the Huss Farmer’s Market. Here, customers all have access to the same fruits, vegetables, and groceries no matter what form of payment they have: cash, check, credit, or any number of food assistance programs. 

Making sure everyone has access to the same food without being judged, shamed, or singled out is central to the philosophy of the Huss Project. In 2020, our asset mapping project of the Three Rivers area showed that one of the biggest barriers to food access in our community is shame. While we can’t fix the personal historical reasons someone might feel ashamed of needing help, we can do a lot to design experiences that are warm, friendly, joyful, and free of judgment. For example, we’ve chosen to have one check-out station at the market, where individuals can use any form of payment, rather than having a separate station for food assistance. 

“Universal design” is the notion that, with thought and intentionality, we can design spaces that work the same for all people, regardless of wealth or physical ability. For example, what if everyone entered the building using a ramp instead of only those in wheelchairs? With just a bit of collaboration, compassion, and imagination, solutions that work well for all people are entirely within reach! 

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.