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Establishing Principles for Good Food, Good Jobs

FoodLab Detroit Strategy Council Co-Lab #1

Story by FoodLab Detroit August 8th, 2017

Why Good Food? Why good jobs?

At FoodLab Detroit, we know that in order to build a more equitable city, communities must be empowered to reach their full potential. To be empowered, individuals must have access to those things that enable one to live a healthy, productive lives: nourishing food, high quality jobs, and opportunities for growth. In partnership with the Work Department, a women-led social innovation design firm, the FoodLab Detroit Strategy Council members participated in a series of three interactive working sessions over the course of six weeks to define the core principles that enable the creation of Good Food and Good Jobs.

At FoodLab Detroit, we know that the key to promoting equitable and sustainable change is to assure that our work is informed by our community. With this in mind, we convened a strategy council of FoodLab member businesses who embody FoodLab's core values. These business owners go beyond providing wholesome, nourishing food, and operate triple-bottom-line businesses intentionally to empower individuals and support their communities' vision for health and well-being.

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what does 'good food' mean to you?

To gain insight into how the FoodLab Detroit Strategy Council members understood what it meant to deliver good food to the communities they serve, we asked them to tell us about the best meal they've ever had. Four major aspects of good food emerged as a result of this discussion: origin, quality, look & taste, and benefit to people. The FoodLab Strategy Council established that good food is food that is vitalizing, and is made and served with love and respect.

Good Food is food that connects us, and heals us.

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what is a 'good job' anyways?

FoodLab Detroit member businesses are deeply committed to moving beyond just good food. To assure community well-being and foster sustainable economic growth, community members must have access to jobs that provide stability, opportunities for advancement, and a sense of purpose. This co-lab discussion centered around the idea that Good Jobs are jobs that come with living wages and benefits, a positive and health work environment, a sense of community, and opportunities for growth and agency.



We understand that if we are to achieve our goal of making healthy, fresh food accessible while also equipping our community with economic opportunities, our work must be strategic. With this in mind, FoodLab Detroit established guiding principles that center our commitment to the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.

Grow our community

We seek to create and share public resources in a culture of openness. We acknowledge the importance of taking care of ourselves, each other, and the broader public good.

Think in systems

While we are focused on Detroit good food businesses, we recognize we are a part of a local, regional, national, and international food system. We see that change is complex and requires us to pay attention to how we are all connected.

Actively cultivate diversity

We work to develop a diverse FoodLab community that includes food businesses of different types and scales; as well as age, culture, and ethnicity of food business entrepreneurs. We believe diversity is an essential part of any just and resilient food system.

Be humble to be great

We insist that we don’t have all the answers as individual businesses or as a collective.

Work with nature

We acknowledge and respect our earth’s physical, chemical, and biological systems.

Recognize we’re on a path

We don’t expect perfection, but are committed to being open about our goals. Not everyone will share or be able to meet all of our goals, but all are welcome to join in moving toward them.

Measure our success

We measure our growth by the things that really matter to us -- knowledge, creativity, relationships, health, consciousness and happiness -- rather than just financial goals.

Food as inspiration

For us, food’s more than just food -- it’s a tangible, joyful, creative way to promote a more healthy, just, resilient world.

We asked our strategy council members which of these core principles resonated with them most, and how these relate to our mission of building a city that was rich with good food and good jobs. Three key principles emerged as of particular importance to our strategy council: Actively cultivate diversity, grow our community, and work with nature.


Great expectations

As part of this first interactive co-lab, FoodLab Strategy Council members spent time working to determine what distinguishes triple-bottom line food businesses from typical jobs within the food industry. Our Strategy Council members compiled a list of do's and don'ts that set good food businesses apart from the rest.


Share resources with one another; educate employees about food by sharing free meals; have trusting relationships; actively participates in and gives back to their community; take pride in their mission; operate intentionally and scale with the triple bottom line in mind; nurture one another.


Take advantage of or underpay employees; do the "bare minimum" for their community; engage in environmentally destructive practices; ignore the triple-bottom line as their food business grows; engage in exclusive practices.


Help us build a more equitable detroit

Join us in lifting up FoodLab Detroit member businesses who are providing opportunities for growth in their neighborhoods, and who are working to make the possibility of good food and good jobs in Detroit a sustainable reality.

Footnote: Major support for these co-labs was provided by the New Economy Initiative.
The Farmer's Hand, Detroit, MI, United States
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