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Ag Forum: Local food movement gathering momentumPrint

Food & Farming | November 26, 2014 | By Diane Conners

Diane Conners

At the recent 2014 Michigan Good Food Summit, I was one of 425 people who heard story after story about how the movement to support local food and agriculture is growing across the state.

People are advancing the six goals and 25 recommendations of the Michigan Good Food Charter, which — now that the election season is over — is an important document to keep in the forefront for our policymakers in Lansing. It’s a vision for how to use local food to build a robust economy, protect the environment, support health and make sure everyone has access to nutritious food.

Here are just a few of the stories we heard:

In metropolitan Detroit, the 1,000-bed Beaumont Hospital is working toward sourcing 20 percent of its food from Michigan growers, producers and processors by 2020. And it’s seeing steady progress: 7 percent in 2013, up from 4 percent in 2012. Michigan blueberries, for example, weren’t just in the hospital’s muffins. They were in salads, entrees and baked goods when they were in season this year.

“It is important to support your state and to support the local economy, as well as it is good for your patients and good for your visitors to have fresh, healthy local produce,” said Maureen Husek, hospital director of nutrition and retail services, in one of six videos shown about progress in meeting Charter goals.

Traverse City, meanwhile, was featured in a video about agribusinesses; the charter’s goal is that they grow at a rate to allow 20 percent of food purchased in Michigan to come from Michigan. Local foods distribution company Cherry Capital Foods was the star of the video. It showed how the company has grown from 15 employees three years ago to 46, and catalogued some of the buyers and sellers it serves.

Heading north, a video on the Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District and the Whitefish Township Community School in Paradise showed progress toward the goal that Michigan schools incorporate food and agriculture into the curriculum for all students. In a Good Food Report Card handed out at the Summit, Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District and Detroit Public Schools also were recognized for working toward this goal.

The impact? In the Whitefish school, teachers used a greenhouse to meet teaching requirements for subjects such as earth sciences. The students, meanwhile, developed an appreciation for how delicious food can taste when it’s grown well and harvested at its peak for flavor rather than being trucked in from thousands of miles away.

“I absolutely hated carrots,” said seventh-grader Joshua Johnson in the video. “Since we are growing them in the greenhouse, I tried it and I just loved it. It’s really sugary. I like them now.”

Hospitals. Food Distributors. Teachers. Farmers. Eaters. Together we create the food system that we want.

I’ll bet Joshua, if he doesn’t grow his own carrots as an adult, will buy them from local farmers or a grocery store that showcases local products. And he’ll choose a hospital that serves them too.

You can learn more about the Michigan Good Food Charter and other statewide efforts at www.michiganfood.org.