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Dorceta E. Taylor


Michigan Good Food

Natural Resources Building
480 Wilson Road, Room 312
East Lansing, Michigan 48824
A full stomach should not be a luxury. And sharp pains of hunger should never be the norm. Dr. Dorceta Taylor, a professor at University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, recently embarked on a five-year, federally funded research study on food insecurity in Michigan. She is identifying the state’s most underserved and beginning to connect them with the resources they need to have the simple dignity of regular, nutritious meals.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Dorceta E. Taylor, Ph.D., Professor, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment: One of the most important things for me, as a leader, is to help others. To reach back and to share some of the expertise I have developed and teach the tricks of the trade. A leader must mentor, and I have always mentored young professionals. I have learned to recognize young talent and help nurture it. Some young people don’t know that they have a particular talent until I spot it and point it out to them so that they can take it and grow with it. Others do know their gifts, but haven’t been given other opportunities to express them.
What is your dream for food-insecure children and their families?
I truly would like to see -- not only here in Michigan, but also the in U.S. and globally -- people working harder to get the right food to everyone. We are producing enough food in the U.S. to feed everyone, so no one should have to go to bed hungry. Supermarkets and restaurants throw out food, and we don’t have enough people to collect it and take it to food banks or into
We are producing enough food in the U.S. to feed everyone, so no one should have to go to bed hungry.
communities for people who need it.
Kids cannot concentrate on math, science, and language arts at school if they didn’t eat that day and are worrying constantly about where their next meal is coming from. Adults who go hungry cannot work as efficiently as they could if they were being fed properly. Some of them can’t work at all.
We are spending tons of money on bombs, wars and war equipment – so much that we cannot see that more food is distributed properly. That’s wrong. Children and families everywhere need to eat.
How do you plan to achieve this dream though your research?
We have selected 18 smaller and mid-sized cities to study in areas with high populations of minorities: Hispanics, Native Americans, African-Americans, and Arabs, along with other residents who may have low-income and poor access to food.
We have three Upper Peninsula cities (Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, and Bay Mills). We’re taking research from those cities, along with Lower Peninsula areas including Flint, Benton Harbor, Dearborn, Muskegon, Holland, Inkster, and Taylor.
We want to know if the patterns in these areas are similar to the ones we see in Detroit. We’re studying to find out if minority families and other low-income residents, no matter their race, don’t have access to healthy, affordable foods like we see in some larger cities. We are trying to locate the food insecure in these communities and provide them with adequate access to nutritious food.
Our groups will stay busy providing seeds and plants to community members to learn to garden so they can eat what they are producing. They’ll teach people to garden, even people who live in apartments and need to plant container gardens or
Politicians from both sides have no problem focusing on the middle class, but are afraid to address the poor as citizens desiring to raise their own families.
raised-bed gardens. They’ll help families locate other local sources for nutritious foods and help growers get their food into these communities.
How do you know you’re making progress?
We are right on track. We are working with six colleges, and even though this project is still young, we have already been able to assemble several students at each site (35 of them so far) to begin the work.
We also have several non-profit community partners helping us to establish gardening projects for residents in our targeted communities. These sub-teams within our project are working on spatial analysis in these areas, too. For instance, one group is mapping grocery stores to determine just how far people have to travel to get to them. Another group concentrates on nutritional information so that they can educate families about the health benefits of exercise, healthy diets, and more. They connect with local farmers as well, to uncover the various barriers that prohibit them from getting their produce to these low-income areas.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of the excitement that this research study has generated so quickly. I have students literally coming out of the woodwork to help, and they are helping me to think through a very complex issue. Most are very technologically savvy, and it’s exciting to watch these young people work with so much passion. I’m proud to be learning from them as they grow, evolve and take on their own leadership roles.
What keeps you awake at night?
The rising inequities between the poorest and wealthiest in our country. We should not have people in America with no healthcare, heat and electricity, fresh water, healthy food and housing. The poor just keep getting poorer, while the uber-rich, who have more resources now than ever before, have less compassion for those who go without.
Politicians from both sides have no problem focusing on the middle class, but are afraid to address the poor as citizens desiring to raise their own families. They don’t want to talk about people who are growing desperate and who are not going to let their children starve no matter what they have to do. Instead, they are seen as moochers and lazy people who want to freeload.
That keeps me up at night. That sometimes keeps me awake for three nights in row.
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Program Profile


  • MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
    To engage the people of Michigan, the United States and the world in applied research, education and outreach to develop regionally integrated, sustainable food systems.


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