Michigan Good Food Summit 2016: Faith-Based Organizations Working to Support Good Food in Michigan
By Jude Barry, Center for Regional Food Systems
Food forms the foundation of our survival, but immersed in our need to sustain our bodies with nutrients are other bonds like community, justice and an understanding of the earth that, for many, create a direct connection between growing, eating and sharing food and religious or spiritual beliefs.
The Michigan Good Food Charter is driven by a set of clearly outlined goals, but the motivation for achieving those goals varies according to the mission of each organization. As the Michigan Good Food initiative grows, organizations are developing strategies to promote healthy, green, fair and affordable food for all, including religious or faith based organizations that are (or are becoming) involved in the world of food and agriculture. An example of how faith-based organization’s are involved in Michigan good food activities can be seen in the ongoing efforts in hunger relief. A 2014 Feeding America survey showed that 69% of partner agencies (local food programs that provide food assistance directly to clients) in Michigan are run through faith based organizations. Justin Fast of the Michigan Fitness Foundation believes this figure may be closer to 80% now, based on his experience with the food assistance network and his work in the field.
The philosophies, beliefs and spiritual journeys of some individuals and affiliations form interesting discussions around food, justice and faith. Interconnectedness, awareness, discipline, wisdom, care for the earth and care for people reflect some of the underlying values of organizations working in food under the umbrella of their faith or beliefs.
At this year’s Michigan Good Food Summit, three religious groups have organized themselves to begin to discuss the topic of food and faith. The groups will present a panel discussion on how their faith-based organizations are engaging in the food movement in Michigan. During this breakout session, these groups hope to share some of the resources that they have developed to advance the goals of the Michigan Good Food Charter. Hazon Detroit is an organization that is working to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and a healthier and more sustainable world. Plainsong Farm in Rockford is a Christian CSA that considers itself a faith-based experiment growing food that strives to provide environmental education, faith formation and young adult residency. Access of West Michigan in Grand Rapids has a mission as a faith-based leader in linking congregational, individual, and community resources to eliminate hunger and reduce the impact of poverty in Kent County, Michigan. Although not representative of all faith-based groups in Michigan, these three organizations plan to share how they are considering the Michigan Good Food Charter values in relation to their faiths.
Register for the Michigan Good Food Summit to obtain more information on the “Faith Communities for Just Food” breakout session and other agenda highlights. Whether you represent a faith-based organization or just want to learn more, we would welcome you to join this session and engage in the conversation!
Mills, G., Weinfield, S., Borger, C., Gearing, M., Macaluso, T., Mendonca, S., Montaquila, J., Vericker, T. and Zedlewski, S. (2014) Feeding America. Hunger in America 2014 State Report for Michigan. Retrieved from: http://help.feedingamerica.org/HungerInAmerica/MI_report.pdf