Date & Time: 
Friday 24 November 2017


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Building a More Sustainable Food System from the Ground Up: Food systems and the new ‘sustainable materialism’

FoodLab Detroit's Ms Devita Davison Devita Davison
FoodLab Detroit

Across the world, food justice advocates are increasingly focusing their attention not on changing national level food policies, but instead of the development of new and more sustainable practices at the grassroots level.

As co-director of FoodLab Detroit, a not-for-profit organisation that represents a diverse community of food businesses and allies working to make good food a sustainable reality for all Detroiters, Devita Davison works to provide support to more than 140 food businesses through resource connection, mentoring, high-quality workshops, field-trips and networking opportunities — all with the goal of cultivating good food businesses. A native Detroiter, Devita moved back home after running a specialty food retail shop in Brooklyn, New York and now plays a leading role in Detroit’s emerging food scene.

In this talk, Devita will focus on the development of this new ‘sustainable materialist’ economy as an alternative to the corporate food economy, its growth, popularity, and potential. We will hear about the experiences of food justice advocates in Detroit, Michigan, followed by a discussion of local food justice activities in Brisbane.


  • Dr Preetha Thomas, UQ School of Public Health
  • Dr Kiah Smith, UQ School of Social Science
  • Dr Amanda Cahill, Centre for Social Change

Devita Davison
A native of Detroit and daughter of a preacher, Devita lived almost 19 years in New York before moving back to her hometown in 2012. For her, words are not just letters strung together; they are vessels for love and fight, heart ache, wisdom, and profound joy. To say she wears her heart on her sleeve doesn't feel adequate; whether decrying injustices in the food system or expounding on the beauty of a ripe strawberry in summer, her passion for this work is palpable. With fiery talk, wide-open arms, and an insatiable appetite for reading the latest in food justice and innovation, Devita propels the growth of FoodLab’s programing to address the transforming needs of its members.  

About FoodLab
FoodLab started in January 2011 with a handful of good food entrepreneurs gathered around a kitchen table to talk about how they could support each other and contribute to Detroit’s growing good food movement. Since then, the group has grown in reach and intention. In its first year, FoodLab members hosted a series of gatherings on how to develop their fledgling businesses along good-food principles. In August 2011, five volunteers began to plan FoodLab’s first bootcamp, “Building Your Good Food Business” (now called BASE). They saw need for a course that provided practical business tools and embraced good-food values. They also wanted to reach out to more entrepreneurs of colour and strengthen relationships with allies. The response to the series was powerful. It was a space where “foodies” (mostly young, mostly white, often new to Detroit) learned alongside generational Detroit residents and food activists (mostly older, mostly people of colour). Participants built new relationships, strengthened practical business skills, and deepened their understanding of triple-bottom-line business design. They found joy in belonging to a community that put relationships and the planet first, and also understood the day-to-day demands of starting and running a food business.

Seminar Room 275, Global Change Institute Building 20, St Lucia Campus The University of Queensland
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