Growing Healthier Communities: Muskegon Receives Funding for Food Hub Feasibility Study
Press Release – Morse Marketing Connections, LLC
As the demand for locally sourced food increases with Muskegon area residents, wholesale purchasers such as schools, grocery stores, hospitals and restaurants must adjust accordingly to meet their customer’s needs. Currently, the infrastructure doesn’t exist to efficiently distribute locally produced foods from surrounding rural counties into the Muskegon community. Around the country, and throughout Michigan, Regional Food Hubs have begun to grow in popularity as they provide a possible solution to connecting local food grown in the fields to the wholesale buyers in urban communities.
“A regional food hub is defined as an aggregation and distribution facility, usually located in or near an urban center, that sources locally produced products from multiple growers to supply multiple local and regional markets (USDA definition)”. According to a national survey completed in 2013, by Michigan State University, Regional Food Hubs create economic development and new jobs in communities and throughout the region, while maintaining a focus on environmental sustainability, and improving the social fabric of the community; they often include a food processing component as well.
The Community Foundation for Muskegon County (CFMC) brought a group of stakeholders together to collaborate on solutions for the Muskegon community and for bringing more healthy food to individual consumers and area businesses. CFMC was recently awarded a $30,375 USDA - Rural Business Enterprise Grant to finance a Muskegon Food Hub Feasibility Study that will analyze the supply and demand of locally sourced food as well as the economic impacts of implementing such an operation. The feasibility study of the Regional Food Hub will provide critical market data for a regional food system, and is the first step towards increasing food marketing opportunities for a wide range of businesses.
“The Food Hub Feasibility Study would not be possible without funding support of USDA Rural Development and Consumers Energy” stated Chris McGuigan, President and CEO of the CFFMC. “The project is exciting because it will look at both how to support the local farmers in our 4-county area, and how to create efficient distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables.” This study will primarily focus on aggregating and distributing products sourced from Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana and Ottawa County.
This feasibility study has received widespread community support from local consumers, community organizations and local legislators including Senator Geoff Hansen, Representative Collene Lamonte, and Representative Marcia Hovey-Wright. United States Senator Debbie Stabenow has also pledged her support of this project.
In addition, Consumers Energy made a commitment to support the feasibility study with a matching grant as part of its community transition commitment to the Muskegon Region as the Company prepares to retire the BC Cobb facility in 2016. Consumers Energy’s community transition investments are made to support job creation and tax revenue opportunities in the community to help displace for the job and tax revenue losses resulting from the retirement of Cobb.
“We believe the food hub and associated processing facility” offers a tremendous economic development opportunity for the Muskegon Region and all of West Michigan,” said Dennis Marvin, Public Affairs Director for Consumers Energy’s New Generation Department. “The feasibility study is an essential step to validate what many of us believe to be true especially as we look for ways to expand the Port of Muskegon and other logistic attributes the Muskegon Region has to support this initiative,” he said.
The study will commence in mid-fall 2014 with plans to be completed by spring 2015. A final report and statement of findings will be released to the community based on the analysis of the findings. An advisory council of community leaders will be selected to provide insights throughout the study project work. The feasibility study team will consist of Marty Gerencer, Morse Marketing Connections, LLC, Ted Spitzer, Market Ventures, Evan Smith, Cherry Capital Foods, and Chad Gerencer, Morse Marketing Connections.
About the Community Foundation for Muskegon County
The Community Foundation for Muskegon County (CFMC) is a nonprofit organization formed in 1961 to support the gifts of generous people, to invest those gifts for growth, and to use the investment earnings to make grants that build the community. The mission of the CFMC is to build community endowment, effect positive change through grantmaking and provide leadership on key community issues, all to serve donors’ desires to enhance the quality of life for the people of our region, now and for generations to come. The Community Foundation for Muskegon County is an equal opportunity employer. For more information, visit www.cffmc.org.
About Morse Marketing Connections, LLC
Morse Marketing Connections, LLC (MMC) is a national food systems consulting business founded in 2002. Over the 12 years in operation, MMC has initiated and co-led several partnerships to increase the supply of locally sourced food into communities in Michigan, and around the country. MMC’s work also includes developing outreach programs focused on the importance of agriculture and food systems in building local economies and increasing the health of consumers. For more information, visit www.morsemarketingconnections.com.