Operation Above Ground

In November 2013, our members voted on our first annual Community Action Project to work towards improving the food business licensing process and policy in the city of Detroit.

In Detroit, food businesses are helping to drive innovation, provide an economic alternative to those facing income instability and helping to sustain the vitality of the neighborhoods in which they are located. Detroit is now playing host to a variety of alternative food business models -- pop-up cafes and markets, mobile food trucks, and shared-use kitchens -- that have the potential to offer healthier food options to residents, encourage cultural exchange, promote ownership among residents, and otherwise grow wealth and quality of life in distressed communities. However, at this time, many of these food businesses continue to operate in an “informal” or “underground” economy not by choice, but because policy around the licensing and regulation of food businesses, the long and costly procedure, and the difficulty to access proper information has not yet caught up to the innovation on the ground.

The members of FoodLab Detroit are now working to fully understand the regulatory environment in order to create easy-to-understand resources (in both English and Spanish) for FoodLab entrepreneurs who are already licensed to provide direct technical assistance to start-up businesses who require support to navigate the current complex process while we work towards a better long-term solution.

Recent Posts

When FoodLab was asked to provide a locally-sourced lunch for a group of Michigan Legislators from the Agriculture Committee, the story we aimed to tell with our lunch was an intimate one. With the help of Molly O'Meara, co-founder of 

For the most part, it's been a busy month of planning. With November's Member Summit & Celebration a week away, that planning has included focus on identifying possibilities for community action in 2015. If you're unfamiliar with FoodLab's yearly commitment to a collective...

In the Media

Nonprofit Quarterly
June 11, 2015

As Detroit continues to rebound and rebuild from the Great Recession and its historic bankruptcy woes, entrepreneurs are playing a critical role. And one particular subset of entrepreneurs—those in the food business—are finding ways to help each other succeed, while at the same...

Corp! Magazine
January 8, 2015

When Devita Davison, her Brooklyn, N.Y., home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, returned to her roots in Michigan, she took a chance and accepted a co-director’s position at what was essentially a startup, even though FoodLab Detroit is a nonprofit organization.

MSU Extension Blog
October 23, 2014

Mobile food businesses are an expanding outlet to find locally-prepared food. Experience the trend for yourself by visiting a fall food truck rally at Detroit Eastern Market on Oct. 30.