Good Food Life: Janelle Mair
What is your role at the Community Foundation for Muskegon County?
JM: I get to help connect generous people in our community to the causes they care about.
How does the Community Foundation for Muskegon County work towards the goals of the Good Food Charter?
JM: When the County Health Rankings indicated that Muskegon had a lot of work to do to improve our community’s health, we rallied together to identify goals and strategies to make that happen. One of those goals was access to fresh, nutritious food – and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, in partnership with Marty Gerencer of Morse Marketing Connections connected with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to implement the HEALTHY Muskegon program (Healthy Eating and Access – Local Teams Helping Youth). The initiative is building connections between groups that are working on healthy, equitable, affordable food in Muskegon’s urban core, while providing grants to support expanded programming.
What do you find most exciting or inspiring about what you’re doing?
JM: Watching our grantees work together, rather than competitively – utilizing their strengths towards a common goal – is inspiring. Together, they’ve installed hundreds of backyard gardens, put hundreds of school-aged children in school gardens and kitchens preparing their own lunches, rallied for changes in local zoning policies, and inspired community members to grow fruits and veggies to put in sack suppers. Most exciting has been the spike in food-related activity – Muskegon now has a new farmers market and community kitchen, the YMCA has a Veggie Van, and the town is working on establishing a Food Hub.
What opportunities do you see for moving towards the goals of the Michigan Good Food Charter and where do you see those leading in the next five to ten years?
JM: I think the next step is inspiring our larger institutions, such as schools and hospitals, to buy into the value of Good Food. With support from Consumers Energy and the USDA, Muskegon is moving towards creation of a Food Hub, and I think having the vehicle in place to distribute healthy, fresh, local produce will help make that connection.
What is one thing you’ve learned through your experience with working towards the goals of the Good Food Charter that you’d like to share with others?
JM: We saw one organization turn a HUGE obstacle (their leased urban farm was paved over to create a parking lot) into an amazing opportunity – they now have a beautiful, expanded farm on the grounds of our local hospital. Obstacles can be seen as opportunities – and our community is full of opportunities!