As Michiganders, we are lucky to have a Michigan Good Food Charter. In 2009, many organizations, businesses, institutions, advocates and eaters came together to coordinate a process of developing specific goals for Michigan’s food system that promote equity, sustainability and a thriving economy across the state. Initial recommendations provided by five work were presented at a statewide summit held in 2010 and following revisions, the Michigan Good Food Charter Vision and Goals were released in June that year.
Since then, feedback has been gathered through bi-annual summits, progress and stories are shared through the Charter website and newsletters and organizations, like Ecology Center, have taken the goals and strategies to the next level. This example is seen through our leadership in launching and co-coordinating the Michigan Farm to Institution Network, and its local food purchasing campaign Cultivate Michigan, with the Center for Regional Food Systems in April 2014.
Through this Charter, ‘We envision a thriving economy, equity, and sustainability for all of Michigan and its people through a food system rooted in local communities and centered on good food.’
Healthy - It provides nourishment and enables people to thrive
Green - It was produced in a manner that is environmentally sustainable
Fair - No one along the supply chain was exploited for its creation
Affordable - All people have access to it
First, you have to know what a ‘food supply chain’ includes – the many steps from farm production, processing and/or manufacturing to storage, warehousing and distribution to get food to your table. As our food chain has become longer and longer, it is becoming more and more important for farmers and producers to know not only how to grow or raise their food, but also they must know how or where they will sell it.
For most consumers, you find yourself shopping at a grocery store or buying directly from a farmer at a market or road-side stand. For institutions, like hospitals, schools or even assisted living centers, food service workers are limited to contracts or have restrictive budgets for sourcing their foods. Farmers have little to no access to developing relationships with these institutional buyers. Further still, regulations and market opportunities tend to be more easily accessible and designed for large-scale farm.
A Good Food Value Chain is used to describe the chain of food production, businesses, facilities and services from field to fork that is built upon collaborative relationships all working toward sustainable food web of businesses. The National Good Food Network says, ‘People, places and practices matter. …[It] comes from “values-based food supply chain,” which is a way of describing how changes in consumer and community values are driving changes in food supply chains.’
By first building the interest or demand for local and sustainable foods within hospitals around the state and in the region, we then investigated many of the ways to identify and buy such foods ‘on contract.’ Contracts vary and some are complicated and strict to where an institution may purchase certain foods or food categories, sometimes even down to each product. Working to build relationships with distributors Michigan hospitals predominately purchase from, our staff provided presentations, or education, to many company employees over the years. Next, leveraging the institutional purchasing power and uniting the voice of hospitals, distributors began to create icons or codes to help buyers recognize the Michigan or local foods they wanted.
Ecology Center staff continue to identify the gaps, challenges and partnerships to overcome barriers and develop solutions for farmers, food businesses and institutions. By sharing best practice examples, experience in navigating contracts and suppliers and disseminating purchasing guides and reports on institutional market opportunities, we can help to create a Good Food Value Chain in Michigan and in the Midwest.
Eastern Market Online Wholesale Market (Food Hub): Prior to and beyond our engagement in supporting the development of
Local Food Interest by Institutions in Southeast Michigan: A Report for Eastern Market Corporation in 2012, we worked to nurture relationships with Detroit and southeast Michigan hospitals. Following this report, we secured two hospitals to pilot Detroit’s Eastern Market’s online wholesale market for 2 years. Our staff cultivated relationships with key hospital foodservice staff and decision-makers and researched and gathered historical product information including source, volume, packaging and pricing. We also organized additional trainings to increase the numbers of Eastern Market vendors using the online market, provided valuable information about how to sell to institutional markets and networking opportunities for sellers and buyers. As Eastern Market transitions toward a cooperative model, our staff can provide the essential guidance for healthcare engagement in the process and future operations for this new model.
Day of Action - Food Day 2014: Thanks to our organization’s relationship with Health Care Without Harm, our staff recruited nearly twenty hospitals to participate in 2014 Food Day efforts to purchase of meat/poultry raised without the routine use of antibiotics. Hospitals had access to recipes, sourcing assistance and marketing and promotional resources. As a result, seven facilities reported spending $3,615, which extrapolated could mean these hospitals have the potential to reach nearly $1.3 million over the course of a year by switching just this item they offered.
Published on December 15, 2014