MSU Extension and West Michigan Farmlink partner to promote local food purchasing

Open house promotes local food purchasing for school food service professionals in Grand Rapids.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is partnering with West Michigan Farmlink to host an open house event for K-12 school and college food service directors at 2 p.m. Jan. 25.

West Michigan Farmlink is an online ordering system currently used by many Grand Rapids restaurants to access locally grown and produced foods. Farmlink offers a centralized, weekly pick-up location in Grand Rapids. This service is now being expanded to interested schools. To date, 33 farm vendors sell their products through Farmlink.

Scott Hawkins of West Michigan Farmlink will be present to help food service directors become familiar with the online ordering system and will facilitate introductions with local farmers. Even though there will not be a lot of produce available for purchase at the January event, food service directors will be able to talk with farmers about the foods they are interested in purchasing and farmers will be able to plan their spring plantings around these needs.

A 2011 report published by the Michigan Department of Community Health reports that 80% of Michigan’s youth do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Offering fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables instead of canned or foods shipped from hundreds of miles may help schools increase fruit and vegetable consumption among their students. This was the conclusion of several farm-to-school evaluation studies published in a 2008 report by the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. Among the schools surveyed, those with a farm-to-school salad bar increased fruit and vegetable consumption between 25 % and 85%. Schools who offered locally grown foods without a salad bar increased fruit and vegetable consumption by 60% as reported by students.

MSU Extension is a partner of Michigan’s Farm-to-School program coordinated by the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State University.

The West Michigan Farmlink Open House is offered at no charge. The location of the event is 1111 Godfrey Ave. SW, in Grand Rapids. which is the same location as the West Michigan Co-Op on the corner of Hall Street and Godfrey Avenue just west of U.S. 131 and the Hall Street exit.

Interested participants are asked to R.S.V.P. to Kendra Wills at or 616-336-2028 by Jan. 20.

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