GVSU alumna talks local food movement
About 50 people gathered at Grand Valley State University to hear Lisa Rose Starner, a GVSU alumna, talk about her experiences promoting sustainable and affordable food movements in the West Michigan area.
Starner has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and French, as well as a master’s in public administration, and she wrote the book called “Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution,” which was published earlier this year.
“Food touches on so many aspects of our lives,” she said. “Someone grew it; it came from somewhere.”
After graduating in 2000, she moved to Napa Valley in California, where she worked in the wine industry. Her interactions with migrant workers and first-hand observation of the difficulties people have in getting affordable, healthy food led her to get involved in the ‘good food’ industry, which provides food that is affordable, organic and economically viable.
Starner brought this passion back to Michigan in 2001 and, as part of her journey to learn about the agricultural system, got a job on a farm in Northern Michigan. Then she relocated to Grand Rapids.
Now, Starner’s biggest concern is getting the community involved in community endeavors, such as the different farmers’ markets in the Grand Rapids area. One of her goals is to help farmers’ markets of any kind connect with their communities and work with them in the way that the local Fulton Street Market was able to do.
“A lot of people feel that they don’t have the power to make change in their community,” she said. For Starner, helping people find and use that power is part of what she does.
Starner said only about 2 percent of the food eaten in the U.S, is locally produced, which was a reason behind her decision to get involved in the local food movement in the city.
She also discussed how many of the foods eaten locally are unfairly traded; there are children harvesting coffee beans and farmers who aren’t getting paid a fair wage for things they produce and send to the U.S. This knowledge has contributed to her campaign for local foods.
She currently spends her time writing and teaching about local food, and edible and medicinal plants, and she also works with local community gardens and farmers markets. She tries to make sure that the community is involved in the agricultural efforts of Grand Rapids and calls herself a “post-modern foodie.”
Starner’s tastes run toward organic, fairly-traded foods. But being a mother, she realizes that she can’t always shop at Whole Foods and still feed her family.
“We have to remember to extend some grace to each other,” she said. “There comes a point when you have to do the best that you can with the resources you have, and I like to believe that others are doing the best they can as well.”