Michigan Groups Adopt Charter Goals

10/1/2011

The Michigan Good Food Charter is  making its way into the everyday work of leaders around the state. Two statewide organizations – the Michigan Food Policy Council and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association—have recently adopted Charter goals as their own. Both present opportunities for people and groups across Michigan to interact locally with these leading organizations and advance common Good Food efforts.

At its July 28 meeting, the Michigan Food Policy Council formally adopted the first four of the Charter’s six goals as “key priorities and targets that will guide the Council’s work over the next three years.” The four priorities relate to accomplishing 20 percent of all food purchases in Michigan coming from Michigan producers and processors by 2020 and to improving access to good food for Michigan residents.

The Council also decided to add a priority that should help connect local and state efforts by supporting the development of a network of community-based food policy councils.

The Council discussed possible action steps for these priorities after hearing from the Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHHA). The MHHA described how its new Healthy Food Initiative, which it launched in May, is patterned in part after the Michigan Good Food Charter.

Seventy-six of Michigan’s 150 hospitals have already pledged to complete the initiative’s four major tasks. One of the tasks is to source 20 percent of their hospitals’ food from Michigan producers and processors by 2020. Paige Hathaway of MHHA member services explained that this task comes directly from the Michigan Good Food Charter.

A significant barrier to success for hospitals and for Michigan farmers in this task is the high cost of complicated food safety audits. Michigan’s smaller and mid-scale farms have the food ingredients hospitals want, but they do not have the resources to pay for the kind of paperwork needed to certify that food is safe. Hospitals, schools, and supermarkets increasingly require this paperwork. Michigan farms will miss major local sales opportunities if they do not have it.

The Michigan Good Food Charter calls for the state to institute a cost-share or reimbursement program to help smaller and mid-scale farms complete costly food safety audits. Keith Creagh, who directs the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and chairs the Michigan Food Policy Council, noted food safety certification support as one of the action steps the Council will need to take on as it pursues its newly adopted priorities.

The Council’s action is significant now because it has just received funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to keep up its work for three more years. Michigan residents and communities have the opportunity to work with the Council over this time and keep it on track.