Solving food insecurity in Michigan

A conversation with Phillip Knight, Executive Director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan.

It is a new year. 2020 is just around the corner. The time is right to think about achieving big goals, such as making sure all of Michigan’s 9.9 million people have enough food. Phillip Knight, Executive Director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan is in agreement. “Instead of talking about the impossible, we need to start talking about what is possible,” Knight said. “We need to change the conversation.”

Founded in 1984, the Food Bank Council of Michigan is working to develop a blueprint to solve hunger in Michigan. “Hunger is just a temporary state. We want to address the systematic problem of food insecurity. We want to make sure every Michigan resident knows where their next meal is going to come from. We know that food shortage is not the issue. Our farmers do a spectacular job of producing healthy, fresh produce. Our state produces the second largest diversity of crops in the nation,” Knight said.

Last year, the Food Bank Council, its seven regional food bank members and 2,900 partner agencies serving all 83 of Michigan’s counties distributed 39 million pounds of Michigan grown fresh produce through the Michigan Agricultural Surplus System or MASS. The MASS uses state and federal grant funds to purchase second grade produce from producers. This system creates a stable market for #2’s, which helps farmers and their employees, while providing locally grown produce to low resource families through the food bank system. “You can’t solve hunger with food, but we certainly can’t solve it without. Our partnerships with producers are critical to our success,” said Knight.

Knight explains that the Food Bank Council’s members and partners do an outstanding job at rescuing and distributing large quantities of food to people who need it; however, the food bank distribution system hasn’t really changed much in the last 40 years. To address this issue, the Council is partnering with university-based researchers to develop a map of the most food insecure areas of our state. This will help identify gaps in the current distribution system.

Growers interested helping to solve food insecurity and in selling produce seconds to the MASS can contact Kath Clark, Food Programs Manager for the Food Bank Council at or sign up online using this form.

For more information about address hunger or local food systems in Michigan, contact the Michigan State University Community Food Systems Work Team at 1-888-678-3464.

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