Media Alert: “Business Champions for Babies” Recognition Reception & Ceremony, Nov. 17th at 2:30

Councilman Scott Benson to Honor “Business Champions for Babies” at Press Conference on November 17th

Dozens of Osborn Businesses To Be Recognized for Taking Pledge to Support Breastfeeding

Move Puts Osborn on Mark to Become Nation’s 1st “First Food Friendly” Community

Thursday, November 17th at 2:30 pm at Matrix Human Services, Room 203

Photo Credit: Robert Deane

Photo Credit: Robert Deane

Councilman Scott Benson will honor over a dozen local businesses that took a pledge to support healthier babies and moms in the Osborn neighborhood by welcoming breastfeeding moms in their establishments including posting “Breastfeeding is Welcome Here” signs. Various national studies show that concerns that breastfeeding in public is unwelcome in their community is a key barrier in achieving the six months of exclusive breastfeeding recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Exclusive breastfeeding provides unparalleled immunological benefits, reduces incidences of ear infections and the risk of Type 2 diabetes and has been linked to reduced childhood obesity. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of certain cancers. “When mothers stop breastfeeding because of fears of shaming or lack of support in the places they frequent every day, their infants miss out on important health benefits. No infant should lose access to the healthiest first food in life because of fears of nursing in public,” says Kimberly Seals Allers, a nationally recognized infant health advocate and director of the First Food Friendly Community Initiative (3FCI).



“We want the 3rd District to be a place for healthier mothers and babies, and supporting breastfeeding is an integral part of that goal,” says Councilman Scott Benson, who also took the pledge of support and signage for both his downtown and District offices. “Making the 3rd District First Food Friendly helps ensure healthy infants and supports my ongoing healthy breast initiative. I hope other districts will join us.”



The work of engaging Osborn businesses, including restaurants, child care centers, recreation centers, libraries and schools was conducted by seven passionate Detroit residents during a three-week, part-time, paid internship that is part of the 3FCI pilot project, which is creating a national accreditation process for breastfeeding supportive communities and is funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The innovative initiative, which was also piloted in Philadelphia, first assessed community sentiment, then developed a proprietary curriculum and training that uses the experiential knowledge of local residents to help them develop local strategies to improve infant health. “We believe that community residents have the best knowledge and experiences to determine what will work best locally” says Kiddada Green, founding executive director of Detroit-based, Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association. “We use a BUFU approach—By Us, For Us,” says Green, who designed and created the 3FCI curriculum and training process used to prepare the interns for their community engagement work.

The Community Transformation Interns, recruited in partnership with the Neighborhood Service Organization’s (NSO) YouthLink program at the Harper-Gratiot Multi-Service Center, contacted over 100 establishments in the Osborn area during their internship, and secured nearly 50 various commitments. Councilman Benson will present their certificates following the presentation to businesses. To conclude the day, the interns are hosting a Community Baby Shower for eight local moms at 4:30.


Who: Councilman Scott Benson

What: Presents “Business Champions for Babies” Awards to local businesses and honors seven Detroit residents for their work to improve the Osborn neighborhood for mothers and babies.

When: Thursday, November 17, at 2:30

Where: Matrix Human Services, 13560 East McNichols, Detroit, Room 203


2:30 Reception (Interview Opps with Community Interns, local business leaders, 3FCI team members)

3:00 Business Champions for Babies Awards Presentation

3:30 Community Transformation Certificate Presentation

4:30 Community Baby Shower for Eight Local Moms


Why Transforming First Food Deserts to First Food Friendly Communities Matters

By Kimberly Seals Allers

In 2006, Mari Gallagher used the concept of a “food desert” to transform how we think about food access. Gallagher’s work studying access to supermarkets in Detroit and the health implications thereof, sparked the slow ascent of the term “food desert” into the American vernacular.  In 2012, the First Lady has made elimination of food deserts an anchor element of her broader “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity.

And while the term “desert” has come under some criticism since a desert is in fact a thriving ecosystem, we use the term in recognition of the severe sense of “lack” present in these communities.  A desert lacks rain, and has extremely limited vegetation and food options.  We use the term in acknowledgement that in first food deserts, infants are limited, at times stunted, and facing systemic barriers to their fullest potential.  Furthermore, we use the term most significantly in its verb form as in “to abandon; to withdraw from without intent to return,” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. In this understanding of the word, we see an important dimension, heretofore missing from the breastfeeding conversation.  That is, for a woman to successfully breastfeed we must also and perhaps first, address the systemic failures and the “lack” in her community.

Our initial exploration of key cities in states with low breastfeeding rates, specifically Birmingham, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana, uncovered consistent similarities in uneven opportunities, risks, resources, and community sentiment, which can be viewed as key identifying factors in communities with low breastfeeding rates.  This work, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, makes a significant contribution to the breastfeeding landscape by demonstrating that where you live makes a considerable difference in your likelihood to breastfeed and your likelihood and ability to continue breastfeeding. This is noteworthy, because previous efforts at increasing breastfeeding rates particularly among low-income and African American women, have primarily focused on messaging. That is, “what” is being said to these women, with little understanding of their community environment, and minimal consideration to the “where” and the impact of “place” as a determinant of breastfeeding success. This focus on messaging has had some success in increasing initiation rates but negligible success at increasing duration—which is where the preventative medicine of breast milk really take hold.

The findings of this exploratory pilot project suggest that there are common defining elements in first food deserts, some concrete some nuanced, all of which show that communities where breastfeeding is stunted, have patterns and commonalities. By addressing, acknowledging and naming these “deserts” we can better address the infant health and wellness challenges also common in these communities.  By clarifying the “lacks” in these neighborhoods, we can better fill in the gaps.