Modeling Food Sovereignty in Michigan’s Local Food Councils 

The Michigan Local Food Council Network, a part of the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS), will work to identify and support community-defined and led food sovereignty efforts among historically underserved communities in Michigan.

According to the Declaration of Nyeleni, food sovereignty can be defined as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” 

The Michigan Local Food Council Network (MLFCN), a part of the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS), will work to identify and support community-defined and led food sovereignty efforts among historically underserved communities in Michigan. MLFCN will continue this effort over the next 18 months thanks to nearly $500,000 in funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund. 

“With this support, we will continue engaging the statewide network of local food councils in skill- and relationship-building while more explicitly supporting initiatives led by communities of color,” shared Liz Gensler, CRFS Local Food Council Specialist. “With a deeper focus on food sovereignty, we expect to advance more sustainable, community-led work to build a more just and equitable food system in Michigan.”  

As part of this project, MLFCN will deepen relationships, document processes to develop models, and prioritize community organizing and leadership development to address inequities inherent in the food system. Local food councils bring together community members and stakeholders from many sectors of the food system to organize, define, and amplify the needs and voices of their communities, particularly surrounding issues of food security, sustainability, equity, and accessibility. As outlined by the Michigan Good Food Charter, these community-driven efforts that progress towards food sovereignty can produce more sustainable outcomes.  

In the months ahead, MLFCN will host coaching cohorts, provide support and technical assistance, and offer seed grant opportunities to food sovereignty initiatives. These tangible efforts will directly support efforts led by people of color.  

Additionally, through the equity and access co-design labs, they will develop a pilot of a food systems leadership program to offer resources and opportunities that will expand participants knowledge and capacity to transform the Michigan food systems. This program will engage a subset of Black, Indigenous, and other leaders of color to test the resources and offer feedback on the program.  

“The equity and access labs support food systems leaders in community power building," Keesa V. Johnson, MDes, CRFS Food Systems Design Strategist, said. "It provides a space for developing solutions and envisioning a just future. Food organizations and institutions can benefit from recognizing the community's potential and utilizing the labs as an equity container for their work.

This project will expand upon the existing support that MLFCN offers to food councils. MLFCN hosts monthly virtual meetings and one to two in-person MLFCN meetings per year. These events include state and federal legislative updates, speakers, and opportunities for learning and joint advocacy. Moreover, the Peer Advisors and Ambassadors of the MLFCN facilitate connections between councils and community partners to support the development of food systems advocates.  

Overall, this project will amplify the power of communities to change their local food systems and improve food access, especially for those that are disproportionately impacted by lack of access to affordable, healthy food. Through continuing to connect local food initiatives across the state in building knowledge, capacity, and relationships, MLFCN nurtures advances in sustainable outcomes and models for other food councils to build a more equitable and just Michigan food system. 

The Michigan Health Endowment fund works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents and reduce the cost of healthcare, with a special focus on children and seniors. You can find more information about the Health Fund at  

About the Michigan Local Food Council Network (MLFCN) 

The Michigan Local Food Council Network (MLFCN) is a network coordinated through the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University. The MLFCN supports local food councils across Michigan in their efforts to build stronger, more equitable food systems through education, training, and advocacy. 

Learn more at 

About Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems 

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems advances regionally-rooted food systems through applied research, education, and outreach. We do this by uniting the knowledge and experience of diverse stakeholders with that of MSU faculty and staff. Our work fosters a thriving economy, equity, and sustainability for Michigan, the nation, and the planet by advancing systems that produce food that is healthy, green, fair, and affordable.  

Learn more at 

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