Wendy Wieland facilitates conversations around building more support for local food and farmers at the Local Food Alliance's 2016 Around the Table in Petoskey. Photo courtesy of MSU Extension.
Thanks to a seed grant from the Michigan Local Food Council Network, the Petoskey-based Local Food Alliance of Northern Michigan will hold its fifth annual “Around the Table” conference on Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 4-8 p.m. with the theme of “Healthy Food for All.” The Local Food Alliance also plans to coordinate and facilitate events and activities that expand its presence within the three-county area of Emmet, Charlevoix, and Antrim counties. The mission of the Food Alliance is to strengthen the economic environment for local food and farming businesses in order to improve the health and food access for citizens in the "Northern Farms Foodshed".
The Local Food Alliance of Northern Michigan was one of six local food councils across Michigan to receive seed grant
s from the Michigan Local Food Council Network. The others include: the Muskegon County Local Food Council; Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network; the Oakland County Food Policy Council; Ottawa Food, and Western Michigan Food Recovery Council.
The Network is co-coordinated by Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and ENP & Associates. These organizations developed the seed grant program with input from network members, who expressed that seed grant funding would substantially help their food councils to advance local and statewide goals. The first round of seed grants was awarded in January 2016.
“Our goal is to develop a strong network of local food councils covering all parts of Michigan,” said Liz Gensler, Michigan Local Food Council Network co-coordinator and outreach specialist at the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. “We were pleased to offer this second round of seed grants to help more councils get started and to assist existing councils in expanding or accelerating their good food work. These seed grants have local impacts and have ripple effects across the state as ideas and innovations are shared among councils through the Network.”
Councils will use the funds for activities that include coordinating activities and conducting a needs assessment survey.
Another of the six recipients, the Traverse City-based Food and Farming Network, aspires to build the region’s agricultural future by identifying areas of need throughout the region’s food system and coordinating action to address them. The Network will complete a local food assessment to acquire data to enhance its work in five taskforce areas—food access, farm to institution, farmland resources, agri-business generation, and local food sales.
“We are using funding from Local Food Council Network to help determine our region’s success in meeting the 20 percent by 2020 goals established in the Michigan Good Food Charter,” said Food and Farming Network’s AmeriCorps VISTA, Connor Drexler. “It’s a privilege to be working with community leaders to quantify and represent our local food system through the updates to our current one-sheet metrics.”
Jennifer Schaap is the local food policy specialist who coordinates Groundwork's food and farming program in the Northern Farms Foodshed of Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties. Contact her at email@example.com.