Alumni Spotlight: Alita Kelly ’19

Alita Kelly | Alumni Spotlight

Date: May 3, 2021

Owner, Founder of South East Market

Alita Kelly launched a grocery store in Grand Rapids that sources products first from Black, brown, indigenous, local or womxn-led farms and businesses. Kelly is also Vice Chair for the City of Grand Rapids Urban Agriculture Committee, Co-facilitator for the brand new chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition in Western Michigan and Chair of the Grand Rapids Boston Square Business Association.

Did any of your experiences on campus lead you to your current role?

The “Food Research Methods” class I took with Dr. Margot Finn played a huge role in providing me the skill set and knowledge to take on the risk associated with starting our market.  Learning about how to navigate the complexity that some data illuminates beyond what it is at face value and breaking down my assumptions and what I felt “sure” of about food was really important. Another course, “Sustainable Cities” with Dr. Jeremy Semrau really encouraged me to think outside of the box to incorporate sustainability in every business decision. Having a space to compost food on campus helped me to change my relationship with waste, and having access to so many resources at UofM, despite my humble background, pushed me to leverage what power I have to do the same for others.

What is one piece of advice you would give students interested in pursuing a career in food systems?

Learning about waste and manifesting solutions to the issues in our food system can be daunting. Don’t forget to be inspired by all of the joy that food and nature can bring. It’s essential to your work to be inspired and that requires rest and play.