West Michigan group gets USDA grant to build local food economy
A group that has helped get locally grown food to communities for more than 20 years is getting a grant to help other Michigan communities establish similar networks.
Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities works to get locally grown food used by food pantries, hospitals, schools, and local restaurants.
Now it’s getting a nearly $900,000 USDA grant over the next three years to help 16 Michigan counties to do the same.
“We were approached by folks in the West Michigan Lakeshore region to share best practices with that region in order to build networks there. They've got a lot of the pieces that work within a regional food supply chain, and it's simply bringing those together,” said Jen Schaap, Food and Farming Program Director for the group.
She said it’s about convening different people and groups and exploring what might work for their community.
“So that folks like farmers, emergency food providers, schools, early child care centers, distributors, aggregators can all learn from each other,” she explained.
Schaap said the pandemic revealed that long distance supply chains can fail and this effort could expand the resilience of the local food economy.
In a news release Groundwork listed what it believes to be the benefits.
- Family farms gain financial stability
- Farmland stays in farming, sustaining our beautiful countryside
- Families eat healthier because the less food travels, the more it retains vitamins and other nutritional components
- Local economies are strengthened because food dollars stay in the local economy to pass through many hands
- Local food can help us build a more resilient and secure food distribution system because it does not depend on long, complicated, and vulnerable supply chains. Food security is national security, as we witnessed in the pandemic
- The healthfulness of local food can help us address the many diet-related, life-threatening diseases that are plaguing our people, from children to elders -which will also help slow the skyrocketing cost of healthcare