Women wearing masks while packing emergency food boxes. Title of the publication is overlaid on the photo.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Michigan Local Food Councils and Their Communities


February 17, 2021 - Lesli Hoey, Alex Judelsohn, Keerthana Vidyasagar, Lilly Fink Shapiro, and Liz Gensler

Around the world, food insecurity has increased rapidly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while food systems workers, businesses, and supply chains deemed “essential” have also been deeply impacted. How have local food councils in Michigan responded to COVID-19, what has supported or challenged their attempts to adapt, and what will a post-pandemic “normal” mean for councils and their communities?

This report, commissioned by the Michigan Local Food Council Network (MLFCN), begins to answer these questions based on a series of interviews carried out between July 22 and August 31, 2020 with leaders of 19 of Michigan’s local food councils.

COVID-19 had a major impact on over two-thirds of councils, forcing them to stop, shift, or delay work. As of late summer 2020, all councils were meeting virtually, though some were meeting more or less frequently than pre-pandemic and, in one case, stopped meeting altogether. Nearly half (9) were in the middle of long-term strategic planning when the pandemic hit, which caused everything to be put on hold—in-person retreats, town halls, and community needs and food systems assessments. Many council members found it difficult to stay involved due to furloughs or emergency response duties in the food system or health care sectors. 

The remainder of this report describes further how councils have responded to COVID-19, government policies and programs that have helped or hindered the ability of communities and councils to adapt, partnerships and networks councils have relied upon—including MLFCN—and the policies that should continue, new partners needed, and emerging opportunities council leaders see in a post-COVID-19 future.

Suggested Citation

Hoey. L., Judelsohn, A., Vidyasagar, K., Fink Shapiro, L., & Gensler, L. (2021). The effects of COVID-19 on Michigan local food councils and their communities. Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems. https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/the-effects-of-covid-19-on-michigan-local-food-councils-and-their-communities 

Funding for this work comes from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.



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