Announcing the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems

04/1/2012

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By Liz Gensler, Communications and Grant Specialist

You may have seen or heard the name Center for Regional Food Systems in recent months. The newly-established Center brings together the former C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems, the MSU Student Organic Farm and faculty and staff from across the university under the leadership of Michael W. Hamm, C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and MSU AgBioResearch scientist.

Affiliated MSU faculty and staff in agriculture, health and nutrition, economics, sociology, and other disciplines will contribute their expertise to the Center’s research, education, and outreach on food systems issues from agricultural production and marketing techniques to healthy corner store initiatives in low-income areas.

To date, the Center for Regional Food Systems has engaged over 50 MSU faculty and staff from a dozen academic departments and five colleges, along with MSU AgBioResearch scientists and MSU Extension specialists, as affiliates of the Center.

“The Center will position MSU to take a leadership role in studying – and bolstering – regional, community-based food systems, within Michigan and around the world,” said Doug Buhler, interim dean for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Regional food systems and locally grown food have direct implications for public health, security, and economies that we are committed to addressing.”

The groundwork for forming the Center was laid a few years ago with the help of funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. With that support, three organizations – MSU’s C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems, the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Michigan Food Policy Council – brought together hundreds of people from around the state to develop specific goals for Michigan’s food system that would promote equity, sustainability, and a thriving economy across the state.

Those goals were published in the “Michigan Good Food Charter,” published in 2010, which outlines steps to be taken over the next decade to improve Michiganders’ access to “good food” – food that is healthy, affordable, and produced fairly and using sustainable environmental practices – and to provide Michigan farms and food-related businesses with enhanced economic opportunities.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently provided an additional $2.5 million grant to help the new center implement the “good food” goals.

“Access to healthy food is essential in creating and sustaining strong communities where all children and families are able to thrive,” said Linda Jo Doctor, program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “This partnership with the Center will help spread that concept across the state by ensuring that all Michigan residents, especially our most vulnerable children and families, have access to affordable, healthy and locally-grown food.”

The Center will focus on:

1. Partnering across Michigan to advance the goals of the Michigan Good Food Charter.
2. Educating new generations to lead regional food systems research and practice.
3. Cultivating and supporting communities of practice around emerging regional food systems issues and opportunities.
4. Increasing the visibility of and access to MSU resources that support regional good food systems.
5. Expanding the resource base for regional food systems applied research, education, and outreach.
6. Developing farmers and farms for regional food systems.
7. Expanding and coordinating engagement of MSU faculty and staff in interdisciplinary regional food systems applied research, education, and outreach.

“These Michigan-based initiatives will complement and inform the work that MSU researchers are doing in other regions, nationally and internationally,” said Ian Gray, MSU vice president of Research and Graduate Studies. “We can be proud of the strong leadership role Michigan State University researchers have taken in studying and applying their knowledge to one of humanity’s most basic challenges.”

Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.