Detroit Mercy’s Campus Kitchen announces new name, new vision

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February 05, 2021
Students involved in TENN volunteer in the community throughout the year, as pictured here during spring 2020.

Titan Equity Nourish Network (TENN)'s new logo.University of Detroit Mercy’s student organization dedicated to food justice is rebranding after a decade serving the Detroit community.

Titan Equity Nourish Network (TENN) is the new name for Campus Kitchen, which is part of Detroit Mercy’s Institute for Leadership & Service. Organization leaders say the rebranding better reflects its work and mission.

Since its inception in January 2011, the organization has donated 92,900 pounds of food to several community groups near Detroit Mercy’s McNichols Campus, and has hosted more than 2,500 volunteers for service opportunities.

“Campus Kitchen associated us specifically with reducing hunger and recovering food,” said Grace Gamble, TENN’s program manager. “But TENN provides more space for us to work within efforts in sustainability and urban agriculture, in addition to food recovery and food insecurity.”

TENN’s name emphasizes several key aspects related to the University and food justice in Detroit — Titan pride; striving for a food system grounded in equity; nourishing bodies, relationships, minds and the Earth through food, community engagement, education and practice; and being part of a greater network working together for a more food sovereign Detroit.

TENN launched as part of the Campus Kitchens Project, a national network of student-led organizations working to end food waste and hunger. Campus Kitchen Projects dissolved in 2019, and individual organizations were encouraged to partner with the Food Recovery Network, a nonprofit with similar goals.

Community impact was crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, as TENN donated 31,540 pounds of food in 2020. Food delivery efforts to Princeton Street Block Club and Developing Despite Distance were tripled during the pandemic, as TENN served 56 families through weekly deliveries.

“Seeing their faces when they realize that we came by makes it all worth it,” said K’leigh Olsen, a senior studying Social Work at Detroit Mercy and a TENN volunteer.

The Detroit Food Policy Council Reported in 2019 that 39% of Detroit households were food insecure, a figure Gamble says likely increased during the pandemic.

By working together with several organizations and groups, TENN is helping to ease food insecurity and inequities in the city.

“While interventions in Detroit are in place to drastically reduce food insecurity, I think that there will always be space for student and community collaboration to create sustainable solutions within the food system,” Gamble said. “We are also working to engage more in food sovereignty, which gives communities the voice to determine how each part of the food system functions in their locality, from production to access, to consumption to waste.”

Detroit Mercy students involved with TENN have high hopes for the organization’s future and continued impact on the community.

“To me, TENN is hope for the future of our food system,” said Makalah McDougal, a Biochemistry sophomore. “I hope that we can continue to work with the community to meet their needs and build our relationship with them. I also hope we will be an active part in creating a more food-sovereign Detroit.”

“My hope for TENN is to break ground to do more work in our community, and that our entire campus gets involved,” added Nazifa Chowdhury, a senior studying Criminal Justice and Psychology. “I hope to see our organization thrive.”

Gamble shares that vision.

“For TENN, success is building meaningful relationships between students, faculty, staff and our neighboring community,” Gamble said. “These relationships are grounded in mutuality and allow us to collaborate with communities to develop sustainable interventions to food insecurity and environmental injustices.”

For more information about the Titan Equity Nourish Network, visit its website.

Visit https://linktr.ee/tennetwork to connect with TENN on social media, join the organization, learn about volunteer opportunities and much more.

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