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Promoting Good Food Across Michigan

Promoting Good Food Across Michigan

The Michigan Good Food Charter is an example of what others can do to promote good food and policy change in their state

The Michigan Good Food Charter lays a foundation for food system work in Michigan. By engaging people from all sectors and walks of life in creating a food system rooted in local communities and centered on good food, the Charter strives to improve the health, prosperity and equity of people in Michigan.

The shared vision of the Michigan Good Food Charter unites diverse Michigan projects, people and places. It serves as a common reference point for why and how the food system should change. The four values of “good food” – healthy, green, fair and affordable – offer a platform for engaging a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The six goals for 2020 offer a roadmap for action.

Developed over 2009-2010 through the collaboration of hundreds of people, the Charter has nearly 900 supporters as of November 2015. Over 350 people from across the state, food system, and socio-demographic lines have come together at statewide summits in 2010, 2012, and 2014 to celebrate and grow the Michigan Good Food movement. The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) serves as a backbone organization for Charter-related efforts around the state, bringing people together under the Collective Impact Framework.

Since its release, the Charter has helped catalyze a suite of new networks around specific aspects of its goals and many existing networks and initiatives have infused Charter goals into their activities. These include shared learning spaces for innovation and capacity building like: Michigan Food Hub Network, Michigan Farm to Institution Network, and a Livestock Network. The Michigan Good Food Fund is a newly launched public-private loan fund for food businesses across the supply chain that will benefit underserved communities. Innovative programs like Hoophouses for Health and Double Up Food Bucks extend access to healthy food in ways that directly support Michigan farmers.

Much of the activity around the Charter to date has focused on these collaboration spaces, which has opened opportunities for numerous policy shifts, for example, in institutional procurement policies and state agency grant programs. An interdepartmental committee convenes state agency representatives to address administrative policy barriers to the goals of the Charter. As these networks grow, their ability to impact administrative policy, as well as engage in legislative policy, will strengthen. 

The Michigan Good Food Charter has also played a key role in guiding and inspiring local food policy councils and similar groups around the state. Several groups formed around the framework of the Charter. Others drew on the goals and priorities in defining their own focus areas. The recently established Michigan Local Food Council Network provides a venue for local councils to learn from one another and address common concerns. CRFS is now working through this network to develop a strategy to invest in new and existing councils directly, as a way to build the local level infrastructure to carry forward food system work in the long term.

Overall, in the five years since its release, the Charter and the efforts connected to this framework have increased capacity and funding for Michigan communities and organizations engaged in good food system work. Its active steering committee, focused on building a movement of people and groups implementing the Charter and facilitating connections across the many networks and activities, ensures momentum will only continue to grow over the next five years.