Experience with food insecurity and a drive to help others inspired this born-and-raised Detroiter to work toward ending hunger in the city.
Achieving your best when you’re hungry is hard. Achieving your best when you’re hungry and unsure of when and from where your next meal is coming is near impossible. Food insecurity – the lack of reliable access to sufficient, affordable and nutritious food – is a reality for many Detroit families and something Quan Blunt, the farm manager for Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, is working to change.
Blunt, who was born on the city’s eastside and raised next to the Detroit City Airport, experienced food insecurity as a child. It’s what drove him toward his current line of work. “When I was attending Michigan State University, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I’m not a competitive person so I realized that wasn’t going to work out,” says Blunt, who has a degree in food science and minors in both environmental and sustainability studies, and brewing and distilling.
“I was in a family that had a food insecurity, so the issue of food insecurity struck a chord with me,” he adds. “I was interested in science and I love food, and then I found out that food science was a major.” After earning his degree, Blunt would put his knowledge to work traveling to five continents with the Peace Corps. “I (joined the Peace Corps) with the hopes that I could bring what I learned back to my city, the food desert that is Detroit,” he says. “I got to travel and got some world experience and had some personal growth.”
In his travels, he’d spend two years in Nepal teaching different agricultural techniques and working on a program that focused on nutrition-sensitive agriculture – a style that aims to overcome malnutrition with dietary diversity. After his travels, he returned to Michigan to work as an organic chemist at a cannabis company in Lansing before returning to his hometown and landing his current position with Michigan Urban Farming Initiative a few months ago.
Today, he manages a three-acre farm that sees some 200 volunteers each week and gives out thousands of pounds of organically grown produce to households near its Brush Street location. “I’m like a jack-of-all-trades. I wear many hats (and) it can be a challenge, but I love it,” Blunt says.
He has a hand in overseeing some of the farm’s other initiatives such as its high-density fruit orchard, children’s sensory garden and retention pond, which uses the basement of a once-blighted home as a rainwater harvesting cistern that automatically supplies water to an adjacent urban farm via a drip line irrigation system.
More service projects are in place or forthcoming and all aimed at keeping the community clean and improving access to nutritious food. “It’s not just being able to afford the produce, it’s about convenience,” he says. “People are working two or three jobs and they may not be able to go to Meijer on Eight Mile or (to) the Whole Foods on Mack. (The farm also) helps beautify the space (and) it builds a greater sense of community.”
And when he’s not doing work with MUFI, he volunteers with other altruistic organizations like Meals on Wheels and York Project, the “social streetwear” company that donates clothing and other items to homeless Detroiters. “I came back to my city to help Detroit become the best Detroit it can be,” Blunt says.
“I want to do more outreach and expand (the farm’s) reach to the whole city, if not with our produce then with education. I want everyone in the city to know about the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative – and I want people to be aware of nutrition and what’s good to eat.”
For more information on Michigan Urban Farming Initiative and the work this 501-c3 does, visit miufi.org.