New book by Grand Rapids naturalist explores city’s food ‘revolution’
Lisa Rose Starner has been a force in the Grand Rapids community as an herbalist, forager, writer and urban farmer. Featured in publications such as The Rapidian, Solace Magazine, Grand Rapids Magazine and Rapid Growth Media, Starner recently released her first book: “Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution.”
Starner believes in a ground-up approach to growing a food and culinary scene. Her academic background and training took root in anthropology and community health, allowing her to embrace the idea that “our wellness and our future are tied into the land that we have.” As one example, Starner has emphasized teaching ethnobotony — the idea of local plants as a source of “everyday wellness.”
Growing up in the same way as most of us have, with a mixture of home-cooked meals and frozen dinners, Starner is wholly self-taught from her experiences living abroad and in California’s Napa Valley and Berkeley. In Berkeley, she volunteered at a school garden that worked to teach kids who lacked opportunities and resources how to grow, pick and cook their foods.
The opportunity “really moved me,” Starner says. “We were able to teach kids the importance of food and the impact [food] has on their health and our surrounding environment. I wanted to bring that lesson and teaching rhetoric home to Michigan as a way of growing the movement and my family in Grand Rapids.”
“West Michigan is somewhat of an untapped gem of the food movement thus far,” says Starner, who grew up in Spring Lake. “We’re blessed by our environment, the Great Lakes, and the area’s investment in infrastructure. Those resources are evolving and allow our region to stand above the rest.”
Embracing the natural bounty of the West Michigan landscape is essential to pushing the food movement forward. By welcoming honest, open discussions with elected officials and community members about our strengths and weaknesses, we can transform this place into a place of abundance for families and future generations.
“West Michigan has begun to embrace and grow its food scene and dedication to healthy eating,” Starner says. With a “farm to fork” focus, the vision Starner outlines in her book is beginning to come to fruition. We need “better stewards of what we already have,” she says.
Nurturing Grand Rapids food is about quality of life and the desire to feel healthy.
“People want these things; they are core human desires,” Starner says. “People don’t want to feel unhealthy, and they want to feel like they can engage and have a voice. [The food and culinary revolution] is not an individual venture, but an integrated quality of life.”
What “food revolutions” are happening in your community?
Photo credit: The History Press