Review of “Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution”


“Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution” by Lisa Rose Starner. Photo courtesy of

“I always hear, ‘we ran out of food stamps because mom had to sell them all,'” said Amy Bowditch in the prologue of “Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution.” Bowditch is a member of the group Treehouse Community Gardeners that has received funding to grow a community garden in the southeast side of Grand Rapids. She meets the city’s children, mothers, fathers and more at this garden. She hears their stories and provides them with nutritious food.

Bowditch is one of many Grand Rapids residents featured in Lisa Rose Stamer’s paperback documentary. Stamer has background in anthropology and community health; her historical novel accurately reflects her expertise in this area while still giving voice to other Grand Rapids residents. She utilizes her knowledge as a platform to conduct interviews and research on the Grow Local and organic food movement, yet still partners with those on the “front lines” of the movement to tell the story.

“Delicious, fresh, healthy, local food. That is the mission of Lisa Rose Starner, to get as many of as possible to eat local. And there’s plenty of that happening in Grand Rapids, from community gardens to microbreweries to food entrepreneurs and artisans and so much more,” said NPR’s Cynthia Canty in response to the book.

For the most part, I agree with Canty. The author’s purpose for writing and passion for healthy food is extremely clear.

She covers all topics every Foodie is interested in knowing: How to cook organic, why we should support local markets (including benefits to the self and to the community), the development of farms and microbreweries in Grand Rapids and, ultimately, the cultural revolution that ties all these aspects together.

However, the attention her book has received may not be fulfilling the intent she clearly outlined in the prologue. The book begins with a heavy emotional appeal about strangers bonding over food in a garden and gardeners themselves helping the poor. But does the book move either of these items higher on the public agenda?

Ultimately, her novel achieves the goal of informing the public about local restaurants. I would agree that readers of her novel would be more likely to begin eating local than those that have not read it.

I don’t believe that it has assisted those with poverty that prevents them from buying organic food. Should her novel have been target to another audience? Perhaps she should have included lessons and seminars on how the Grand Rapids community can begin bridging the health gaps between rich and poor.

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