Michigan Food Policy Council releases 2013 report of policy recommendations

Michigan Food Policy Council policies align closely with those identified in Macomb County by the Macomb Food Collaborative.

The Macomb Food Collaborative could not agree more with the new release of the Michigan Food Policy Council 2013 recommendations. The Macomb Food Collaborative has been supporting similar efforts in Macomb County for the past three years and sees the states policies as aligning perfectly with local issues.

Of the three MFPC recommendations for 2013, these are all identified in the local Macomb Food Collaborative goals for local food. Members of Michigan State University Extension Community Food Systems team are ready and able to work to implement these recommendations in communities across Michigan. To learn more, visit the Community Food Systems webpage.

The group agrees that as the demand for local food increases, it brings potential to create new jobs and employment opportunities in Macomb County and across Michigan. Also, the local Macomb County group sees quality food access as one way to greatly improve health of community residents.

The Michigan Food Policy Council recommendations include:

  1. Build capacity of Michigan’s farmers market sector to increase access to healthy foods. The local Macomb Food Collaborative has worked the past two years to support and encourage local farmers markets to expand services at markets to include the acceptance of EBT cards (aka the Michigan Bridge Card). Macomb County now has 5 markets that are approved to accept the Michigan Bridge Card and hopes to have all 8 markets in the county accepting the EBT system by next spring. By offering this program, it increases the customer base for the market and can increase income for farmers. There are also two additional sites for farmers markets – Warren Farmers Market expanded to the Owen Jax Community Center at 9 Mile and Van Dyke and the Mt. Clemens Farmers Market added a new day and site by hosting a new market on Wednesday afternoons in downtown Mt. Clemens. These additional sites make it easier for people without transportation to access the market and fresh healthy food.
  2. Help small-scale farms achieve food safety certification to increase their sales to the retail food industry, institutional buyers and consumers. As retail and institutional buyers look for local food, they often have policies requiring food safety certification. At the same time, farmers see these as added costs to producing and more paperwork. USDA GAP certification is often required and can be unrealistic for a small farm that grows many different crops. This certification is not required for farms to sell produce but is often wanted by the institutional buyer. The Michigan Food Policy Council is recommending Michigan find ways to support and allow more farms to scale up and sell and need industry-wide food safety certification. It should be noted that many farmers do follow safe farm practices and grow a safe food supply but need help with the food safety plans and paperwork that will more easily allow them to sell food to large institutions locally. “Of the 6,500 Michigan fruit and vegetable producers that market directly to consumers, less than five percent participated in a formal USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit in 2010” according to the 2013 Policy Recommendations by the Michigan Food Policy Council.
  3. Support a state Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) to provide access to financial capital for job creation in the local food system. There are some sources of funding for new food businesses but not enough to meet the demand. Food businesses need capital to add equipment, land to grow more food, upgrade their facilities and market to institutional buyers. This policy will also help to increase jobs and economic development in Macomb County and across Michigan. Michigan has received funding to support the Michigan Good Food Fund, a first-of-its kind initiative for Michigan that will expand access to healthy food for Michigan by funding projects that will provide additional marketing opportunities for local farmers and other producers by providing value-added equipment grants and loans for local dairy farmers and facilitating the creation, improvement, and expansion of aggregation, processing and distribution channels, in addition to grocery and other types of healthy food retail. 

Jane Whitacre, director of the Michigan Food Policy Council has facilitated the policy development process with the MFPC members and will be presenting a session on these policy recommendations at the 2014 All About Food Conference on February 12, 2014 at the Macomb ISD.

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