What’s Happening with the Michigan Good Food Charter

The Michigan Good Food Charter is a vision statement and set of goals for the food system in Michigan developed collectively in 2009-2010 by hundreds of people across the state.

The Charter is important because everyone in Michigan deserves access to good food. Not everyone has that right now, and the charter puts forward goals and strategies for changing that. The charter also calls for supporting Michigan agriculture and farmers – both for the sake of farmers, too many of whom are not profitable, and as way to strengthen the local economy.

Our role at MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems is to build partnerships around the goals of the charter, to track progress, and to get the word out.

The charter outlines a shared vision, six key goals and 25 policy priorities; it’s a long and thorough document, so I thought it would be helpful to update DFFC members about our progress in a few key areas.

One of the areas where we’ve made much headway is in building awareness and support for the charter goals. We’re in a good place at the state and local level, with groups on board with the charter goals and working to support them. We see the charter as strengthening a network of networks. We’re all sharing the same vision and goals and working together to achieve the goals logistically. This helps leverage work around the state.

Another area where we’re making notable progress is with institutional purchasing of local food. This work is being spearheaded by Michigan Farm to Institution Network, a statewide learning and practice collaborative that supports Michigan institutions’ efforts to increase local food purchases. The network is encouraging organizations to sign on to Cultivate Michigan, to get 20 percent of the food that they buy from Michigan producers by 2020.

We’ve also made strides around providing support for food-related businesses. The Michigan Food Hub Learning and Innovation Network has been instrumental in furthering efforts to create local distribution hubs in communities across Michigan by creating opportunities for people to learn from each other. Michigan also received a $3 million federal grant to create the Michigan Good Food Fund, which will provide access to capital and technical assistance to businesses across the supply chain that will help make healthy food more available in underserved areas.

The more challenging areas of the charter are in supporting farmers to supply Michigan markets profitably and supporting beginning farmers (the average age of farmers continues to notch up). We’re starting to get the state to provide more support for beginning farmers, but progress has been slower than we’d like.

We’ve also been challenged in tracking one of the charter goals around incorporating food and agriculture into curricula and providing youth access to entrepreneurship. We know good local efforts, like the Detroit School Garden Collaborative and the Detroit Food Academy, are underway, but we don’t have a way to quantify or qualify them or track progress statewide.

Despite these challenges, momentum with the good food movement is promising. The Center for Regional Food Systems tries to profile the important work going on to raise public consciousness. We also help organizations and professionals around the state learn and network with each other.

This summer we started a new campaign to get individuals and organizations to sign the Resolution for Support for the Charter and take action. And we’re more active than ever on Facebook and in getting more media coverage on food- and farming-related issues.

Attendees at last year's summit

Lastly, we’re hosting the 2014 Michigan Good Food Summit on October 28 at the Lansing Center. We have a packed agenda, amazing keynote speakers, and engaging breakout sessions planned for the day. We’ll also be releasing our 2014 report card, drawing from new data and showing progress on our six goals from when the charter was first implemented to where we are today. You can register here.

Hope to see you at the summit!

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