Michigan Good Food Charter Shared Measurement Project: An Update

Project updates and next steps from the Michigan Good Food Charter Shared Measurement team.

Photo courtesy Katy Joe DeSantis.

By Kathryn Colasanti and Rich Pirog, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems

We haven’t reported on the Michigan Good Food Shared Measurement Project since February, but things have been quietly progressing behind the scenes.

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems partnered with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition to conduct stakeholder interviews and surveys between October 2014 and February 2015 to better understand current capacities and desired directions for shared measurement. The results revealed three high-priority areas: institutional purchasing of Michigan foods, access to healthy food and economic impacts of local food. Under the guidance of an advisory committee, we have been working to identify the specific indicators of interest in these areas as well as the tools to collect data on those indicators.

This process is leading us towards three different courses of action. First, we plan to put additional resources towards on-going efforts of the Cultivate Michigan campaign to collect data from participating institutions on purchases of Michigan grown and produced foods. Second, we are developing guidance on the best available secondary data on food access as well as creating a new food access survey tool for in-depth community level assessments. Third, we worked with a team of economists to host a training workshop on understanding and measuring economic indicators for local food systems, with representatives of more than 20 organizations attending. By facilitating this increased understanding of potential economic indicators, we hope to make better decisions about the best path for the shared measurement work in this area.

At the same time, we have been working to respond to the desire articulated by stakeholders for general training on data collection and for guidance on accessing and utilizing secondary data. Beta-testing of a Microsoft Excel based tool that uses secondary data sources to frame food access and agricultural production and marketing capacity at the community and county level is underway. We believe the tool has value for both food systems education and local planning purposes. We are also launching a series of webinar trainings this fall, which will be both available for live participation and recorded for later viewing. The first training, An Overview of the Research Process, is scheduled for October 23 at 10:30am (Register here!). Additional trainings are planned on conducting program evaluation, understanding food system economic impacts, utilizing secondary data on food access and implementing a food access survey. Following the trainings, we plan to implement a pilot of the food access survey in a small number of Michigan communities selected through an application process. Details of this process will be developed over the coming months and shared as they are finalized. Stay tuned!

For more information, or to sign up for any of the trainings, contact Kathryn Colasanti at colokat@msu.edu

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