Muskegon Food Hub Operation Feasibility Study Webinar

November 10, 2015 - Marty Gerencer, Chris McGuigan, <$authorEmail>, Evan Smith

This webinar provides an overview of the Muskegon Food Hub Operation Feasibility Study process and findings. This recording features presentations from key study partners, including the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, Cherry Capital Foods, and Morse Marketing Connections.

Webinar Authors

Webinar Transcript:

Noel Bielaczye: Okay, so it's 2 o'clock, and we look like we've got a few people jumping on the webinar. So, let's kick things off. And we have our panelists, it looks like. So, we're all good. Welcome, everybody. This is Food Hub, brought to you by the Michigan Food Hub Met Network. Today, we're just going be talking about the Muskegon Food Hub Feasibility Study. I'm going to just run through a couple of quick things before we get started, and we'll just have a couple of very quick updates before we get to the presentation. I'm Noel Bielaczyc at the SMU Center for Regional Food Systems, along with Rich Pirog and Marty Gerencer, who are also both on the call, where we co-convene the Michigan Food Hub Network. Okay, so we're using a new webinar platform today. We're using Zoom. MSU has retired Adobe Connect, so this is kind of our first go around with Zoom. Hopefully, we don't have any big glitches. We try to prepare and anticipate those sort of things, so hopefully it doesn't become a problem. I do apologize for all the emails. We had a little snafu with the initial URL that was sent out. Hopefully that's not preventing folks from jumping on this webinar. Related to that, this webinar is being recorded, so it will be posted on the CRFS website soon, probably in a week or two, and you can find that at, and you just go to Michigan Food Hub Network Resources. For this webinar, we'll do Q&A through the chat pod, so at the bottom of your screen you should be able to roll over a little toolbar and there's a chat pod down there. I'll be keeping track of people entering questions in there. There's also a way to raise your hand, I believe, and that is also a good way if you want to just interject. You're welcome to bring up a question throughout the presentation, but there will be designated time at the end for questions and answers. So, feel free to save it until the end. If your audio is not muted already, just go ahead and mute that. Sometimes we get some feedback on these sort of things. So, just really quickly, today I'm going to give a couple of quick updates. And then, Rich is going to give a quick update on Michigan Good Food Fund and other things as it relates to the Feasibility Study. And then, we're going to cut right to the Muskegon Food Hub Feasibility Study, and we'll have some Q&A. So with that, I just want to quickly mention this is the only update we have today. Michigan Food Hub Network's statewide meeting is on Thursday, November 12. It's at Eagle Eye Banquet Center in Bath Township, which is Lansing for all intents and purposes. Future topics we're going to have -- Michigan Food Hub IT Feasibility Study results. There's going to be a sneak peek of the 2015 National Food Hub Survey results, and were going to have a panel discussion with UVM Food Hub Managers Program Class of 2015. We had five people from Michigan join that class. Should be really great. You need to RSVP for this meeting, so just, again, hop online Center for Regional Food System's website. Sorry for this super-long link. Just go to Food Systems at and you should be able to find the meeting and events, and you can go from there. I'm going to pull Rich's presentation up here and -- That's weird. Why is that happening? That's weird. Okay Sorry, folks. [Laughter]. Okay, here we go. Sorry, folks.

Rich Pirog: There you go. Just leave it at that [inaudible].

Noel Bielaczyc: Okay. Can everybody see that? Okay. Handing it off to Rich here. 

Rich Pirog: Good afternoon, folks. Rich Pirog, Senior Associate Director, Center for Regional Food Systems. Just briefly, I was asked to make sort of a connection between this Feasibility Study and the role food hubs play in healthy food access in the state. This particular map that you're looking at here, this was done by the Food Trust in association with the American Heart Association. It's a report called Food for Every Child. You can actually get this report from the Michigan Good Food Fund site, which is at the bottom of this slide. And it shows the areas of Michigan that have limited access and limited income, and limited access as it relates to healthy food. If your geography is good, as you look at this slide and you know where Muskegon County is, you can tell that Muskegon County -- a part of it is in the red of this slide. And the red areas are the areas where we have the greatest need in the state. And so, in addition to the idea of having more opportunities for farmers in the region to be able to sell products, the idea of having more healthy food access and having a food hub and/or an aggregation site in Muskegon makes good sense from the standpoint of we know we've got areas in that county that we have issues around healthy food access. Now I'm trying to get to the next slide here. And let's see here... What else would I push, Noel?

Noel Bielaczyc: I have no idea why this is not working.

Rich Pirog: Maybe -- I think it's down here, if you could make this just a little smaller. It might be down -- No. Slide one of three. 

Noel Bielaczyc: This is a good time for a joke, Rich.

Rich Pirog: Ah, good time for a joke. Okay. So, within the context of what we've already said, we have identified Muskegon as an area that definitely has lower income and low access to healthy food parts of the state, places like Muskegon Heights, other parts of the city of Muskegon, and likely some rural areas within Muskegon County. Again, the Food Fund is a public/private partnership that provides loan funds and business assistance to those types of good food enterprises. So, as Marty and as Evan talk about the Feasibility Study, one particular aspect -- a goal, you know, of having more healthy good food assessable in Muskegon County and its surrounding environments would be the idea, and could be supported through something like a Good Food Fund. The fund has a target of $30 million, has about $10 million in it right now from foundations and from the federal government. One very unique thing about this fund compared to any other healthy food financing fund -- well, most other healthy food financing funds across the country, is that rather than just focusing on healthy food retail and loans and business assistance for retail, Michigan Good Food Fund can also provide loans and business assistance production processing and aggregation and distribution. And by that, we mean certainly that would include food hubs. So, with that, just sort of opening framing around the connection between healthy food, the potential for a food hub in the Muskegon area, I want to turn things back to Noel, who will introduce -- Is Marty first?

Noel Bielaczyc: Chris.

Rich Pirog: Okay. We'll have Chris from Muskegon be up next.

Noel Bielaczyc: Okay, Marty. So, you can pull up your presentation there.

Marty Gerencer: Let's see. There we go. Okay. Welcome everyone, and glad you could join us today to hear more about the Muskegon Food Hub Study. I'm wearing my local hat today, as you know. I worked with Evan on this and the Community Foundation on this Feasibility Study. So first, our president from the Community Foundation, Chris McGuigan, will say a few words about their role and why a food hub is important to the Community Foundation from Muskegon County.

Chris McGuigan: All right. It's good to be here. Thank you for listening to me and asking my comment. The Community Foundation's involvement really started when the community established a goal to become healthier. It was about 2009. We, as a community -- and there were lots of community leaders and institutions involved -- but we decided to improve our health status. We established an initiative called "One in Twenty-One," meaning we wanted to be the healthiest County in Muskegon by the year 2021. That's a bold goal and it is a bold initiative that certainly continues today. And as a Community Foundation, we were looking for the bold thing that we could do in connection with that initiative. One of the sub-goals was to increase access to healthy food, and we grabbed onto that as a specific sub-goal that we would work on. Almost immediately, we partnered up with Marty Gerencer whom you all know, but if you don't, she's a national expert on food systems and is a Muskegon resident. So, it was a perfect partnership. Together we planned the grant request to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for a re-granting program that would focus on increasing healthy food access, especially to low income youth. We called it "Healthy Muskegon." As a result of that program, the first thing that happened was it revealed the expertise that we had in this county relating to healthy food, relating to getting it to underserved populations. At the same time we were working on "Healthy Muskegon," the Community Foundation was also a leader in creating a downtown Farmers Market that included an incubator kitchen, and the focus of that work was primarily economic development increasing prosperity. Both of those programs just naturally led us to understand that if we truly wanted to get healthy food to the widest possible population in our county and at the same time work on economic development, examining the possibility of a food hub was the step that we needed to take. So, as one of the grants from the "Healthy Muskegon" re-granting program, we funded the Feasibility Study for a food hub in Muskegon. The possibilities are exciting and we're very proud to have played a role to get us to that point. So, you know, to summarize the Community Foundation's role, it really was to provide a base of support, to create that network of expertise that already existed, and to allow knowledge sharing among all of those grantees. Thank you.

Marty Gerencer: Thank you, Chris. That was wonderful. So, now we'll go on. We've shared the Feasibility Study findings, the actual report we all put together, several times to this [inaudible]. You're probably tired of seeing it, maybe. So, what I'm going to do is sort of help focus and summarize the key points -- what made this feasibility unique and what made Muskegon unique to the food hub feasibility seen. Along with our low income communities and our obesity status, we also had realized we had a city in the midst of, as you all know, an agriculturally dense -- at least for fruits and vegetables -- area of the state, maybe area of the Midwest region. And some of these counties around Muskegon have a lot of fruits and vegetables that they grow and a lot more that they would like to grow.

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