Michigan Farm to Institution Network launched

On April 3rd, the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) and the Ecology Center launched a network to unite farmers, food processors, and food service directors in increasing the amount of Michigan food served in institutions.

The Michigan Farm to Institution Network will be a statewide collaborative that supports Michigan institutions' efforts to expand local food purchasing and farmers’ efforts to connect with and supply those institutions. The network’s target is for institutions such as schools, child care centers, hospitals, colleges and universities to source 20 percent of their food products from Michigan growers, producers and processors by 2020.

“The timing to initiate this network is right,” said Colleen Matts, CRFS farm to institution specialist and Michigan Farm to Institution Network co-coordinator. “We continue to see local food purchasing grow in Michigan’s schools, hospitals and other institutions. This new network will build on that momentum to continue to ramp up Farm to Institution programs.”

CRFS surveys show that, in 2013, 68 percent of school food service directors purchased Michigan foods and 82 percent were interested in starting or continuing local purchasing.Ecology Center worked with the Michigan Health & Hospital Association to secure more than 100 hospital pledges to purchase 20 percent of their food locally by 2020.

“This coordination is what we need to take our work to the next level,” said Hillary Bisnett, director of the Ecology Center’s Healthy Food in Health Care program and Michigan Farm to Institution Network co-coordinator. “At the launch, we also plan to unveil a coordinated local purchasing campaign, Cultivate Michigan, to help institutions reach the 20 percent by 2020 goal.”

The Cultivate Michigan campaign will feature four local, seasonally available foods each year. Toolkits including recipes and marketing materials for each of the foods will be distributed, and support provided through the network will help farmers, processers, and suppliers understand the foods institutions want in the forms they need, assist buyers in locating and using local products, and promote recognition of these local foods among eaters at the institutions.

Cultivate Michigan will support institutions in purchasing 20 percent local food by 2020, a goal that originates in the Michigan Good Food Charter. The charter is a guiding document, developed in 2010 with input from across Michigan, that outlines targets to promote equity, sustainability, and thriving economies through our food system.

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems unites the applied research, education and outreach expertise of faculty and staff members at MSU to advance understanding of and engagement with regional food systems. CRFS organizers envision a thriving economy, equity and sustainability for Michigan, the country and the planet through food systems rooted in local regions and centered on food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable.

The Ecology Center is a membership-based, nonprofit environmental organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Founded by community activists after the country's first Earth Day in 1970, the Ecology Center is now a regional leader that works for a safe and healthy environment where people live, work, and play.

CONTACT: Liz Gensler, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems,gensler@msu.edu, 517-353-1914;or Alyson Oslin, Ecology Center,alyson@ecocenter.org, 734-369-9273

Published on January 9, 2015