This August, the Lansing-based NorthWest Initiative (NWI) launched its new mobile farmer’s market program to bring the bounty of Michigan fruits and vegetables into food insecure communities and bridge the food access gap.
August 17, 2017 - Author: Andrea King Collier
By: Andrea King Collier, Freelance Journalist and Author
This August, the Lansing NorthWest Initiative (NWI), launched its new mobile farmer’s market program. The mobile farmer’s market is a part of NWI’s Food Systems Project, whose mission is to increase all residents’ access to fresh, accessible and affordable food. The mobile farmer’s market, primarily funded by the Ingham County Health Department, is another important step in making that happen. It also speaks to the ways that communities and neighborhoods around the state are embracing and adapting to address the policies and practices needed to create, and sustain, access as recommended in the Michigan Good Food Charter.
Executive Director Peggy Vaughn-Payne says one of the goals of the mobile farmer’s market is sourcing and showcasing enough Michigan- grown produce to supply the neighborhoods they visit. This has been challenging. Vaughn-Payne says it will be the middle or end of August before they are able to fully support the mobile farmer’s market with their own Michigan produce. “Right now, we are sourcing to supplement what we have by buying from Horrocks Farm Market, Meijer and Kroger,” she says.
Even though there are several grocery stores in the area, for people who don’t have cars or other reliable transportation, having fresh food brought directly to their community through strategies like mobile farmer’s markets can be important in ensuring regular access to healthy food. Vaughn-Payne says the mobile market will be adding more days, times and locations soon. She says they will also be setting up at some of the special events going on around the city. NWI is scouting locations to hold the farmer’s market indoors, soon, to offer close to year-round access.
Vaughn-Payne says they are working to get the Double Up Food Bucks program set up to offer customers more produce for their food dollars. The mobile market can accept currently WIC, EBT and the Senior Project Fresh.
No Stranger to Good Food Work
The mobile farmer’s market is not NWI’s only food-related work. NorthWest Initiative has also established a partnership with the Lansing School District to provide nutrition education for elementary school students in four schools. Vaughn-Payne says, “the [Food Systems Project] team visits over 40 classrooms each month, reaching 1,000 students in grades K-6 when school is in session.”
Each of the schools has a food garden. “We are teaching the students we work with all about how to grow food and harvest it. But we are also teaching them how to prepare the food they grow,” says Vaughn-Payne. The schools also offer after school garden clubs at three of the partner schools they are in.
The Food Systems Project team also understands that it is important to teach the students that food access doesn’t work without the basic skills to prepare the food to make sure it tastes good. NWI holds a summer kids garden camp that teaches them how to cook the produce they’ve grown. Watch a video of Lansing children talking about their experience here! When school starts in the September, the kids will start growing fall crops.