Reflecting on inspiration from 2020

To our partners and supporters, thank you for all that you have done this year to advance a good food system in Michigan and nationally.

Worm's eye photo of cilantro sprouting in a hoophouse with a group of people gathered in the background.This year, we have been vividly reminded of how urgently we need a food system that provides all people equitable access to healthy, green, fair, and affordable food. We have experienced and witnessed a global pandemic, protests against systemic racism, and political tensions. We have also seen inspiring examples of people in organizations, institutions, and businesses leveraging local and regional food systems to keep people fed and safely employed. In this message, we share with you some of what we have seen and contributed to these efforts.

While the national and global food supply chain lagged to keep up, the entrepreneurs, producers, advocates, and others involved in Michigan’s local food systems nimbly and tenaciously adapted to keep people fed and businesses running amidst the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Michigan Local Food Council Network met weekly so members could share resources and knowledge to help Michigan farmers, food businesses, and residents address safety protocols and access food security-based government aid programs.

We have also seen inspiring examples of people in organizations, institutions, and businesses leveraging local and regional food systems to keep people fed and safely employed.

One outstanding accomplishment in support of Michigan’s local food systems is that the Michigan Legislature expanded the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms program this year. See how 10 Cents a Meal works and why it’s great for Michigan.

Javier poses with a plate of tacos.
Javier Fortoso of Torti Taco. Photo courtesy of Javier Fortoso.

Michigan’s food entrepreneurs were ingenious in their adaptations and inspiring in their commitment to help their communities through the difficulty. We encourage you to read the stories of their responses, including Torti Taco in Battle Creek, Malamiah Juice Bar in Grand Rapids, and MenuBubble, which serves several markets across the state. All of these businesses are clients of the Michigan Good Food Fund, which works with entrepreneurs to bring healthy food to Michigan communities. The Fund released its five-year report this year.

2020 was the 10th anniversary of the Michigan Good Food Charter. process to update the Michigan Good Food Charter to address current and future challenges is underway. This year we shared a draft of the 2020 Charter with communities throughout Michigan for feedback and ideas. Please consider participating in moving the Michigan Good Food Charter updates forward in 2021.

Michigan Good Food Summit promotional graphicWith in-person meetings suspended, 370 individuals, including more than 70 speakers, participated in the 2020 Michigan Good Food Virtual Summit this fall. Together, we celebrated achievements, explored new directions, and launched a renewed effort to advance a good food system in Michigan through 14 virtual events spanning seven weeks.

Many events of 2020 illuminated systemic racism and underscored the urgency of operationalizing racial equity principles into everything we do. This year we published two pieces to share how we have changed to make our gatherings more inclusive. We hope you’ll find it useful to read what the Michigan Farm to Institution Network and a national convening of states with food systems plans did.

Many events of 2020 illuminated systemic racism and underscored the urgency of operationalizing racial equity principles into everything we do.

In January, we published the seventh edition of An Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism Present in the U.S. Food System. Former postdoctoral fellow, Kimberly Carr, testified on food sovereignty in underserved communities before the Michigan House of Representatives Agricultural Committee and discussed the topic before the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus in February. We wish Dr. Carr all the best in her new role at the Mercer University School of Medicine.

We are grateful for the new and continued support from our funding partners in 2020. With new or renewed support received in 2020, we will cultivate local food partnerships for food entrepreneurs in Battle Creek and the Upper Peninsula, provide technical assistance to food retailers who participate in nutrition incentive programs, expand farm to early care and education efforts in Michiganhelp cooperative extension educators across the U.S. to build their capacity to identify and address racial disparities among land grant institutions, support regional and national efforts to help farm to institution programs grow, and conduct two national surveys to explore the evolution of food hubs and farm to ECE across the U.S.

We thank all of the organizations who make our work possible through their financial support.

Young girl wearing a mask holds a flower and a bunch of carrots in front of a farmers market stall.
Photo by Alex Palzewicz

Lastly, we’d like to share one more thing that inspired us in 2020: highlights from a photo library created by individuals who advance good food in Michigan through the work they do every day. We provided six individuals with basic camera equipment and photography training, and they created a library of photos for advocating, promoting, and building support for their work and Michigan Good Food work collectively. We hope that you are as inspired as we are by their photos.

In 2021, we will introduce a periodic e-newsletter to share a shorter version of updates like these. We plan to send 4 or 5 messages throughout the year. If you’d like to receive our updates, you can subscribe by following this link or clicking the button below. We hope that you will sign up to keep in touch!

To our partners and supporters, thank you for all that you have done this year to advance a good food system in Michigan and nationally. We wish you a peaceful and healthy year end and start to 2021.

Sincerely,
MSU Center for Regional Food Systems

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“Stubborn Ounces”
(To One Who Doubts the Worth of
Doing Anything If You Can’t Do Everything)

By Bonaro W. Overstreet

You say the Little efforts that I make
will do no good: they never will prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in balance.

I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.

 

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