Seed Grants Now Available for Local Food Councils

06/1/2017

Network members in small group discussions at April 2017 meeting  (view larger image)

Network members in small group discussions at April 2017 meeting

By: Rachel Kelly, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems

 

 

The Michigan Local Food Council Network (MLFCN) has announced a second round of its Seed Grant program. The Seed Grant program was developed for existing and developing Michigan local food councils, including food policy councils.

 

Current Grants

In January 2017, six Michigan local food councils received seed grants from the Michigan Local Food Council Network (MLFCN). The seed grant program was created to help new and existing food councils and food policy councils build their capacity and fund specific projects. Below is a list of councils who received seed grants from the first round and a brief overview of how they are using their funds:

  • Detroit Food Policy Council is using its funds to enact a communications strategy to increase awareness of the council’s work throughout the Detroit community in order to better involve and serve its residents.
  • Food Systems Workgroup is hiring a staff member to lead council activities and increase outreach and education in the Greater Lansing area.
  • Good Food Kalamazoo hired a facilitator to help form collaborations in the community to solve complex issues.
  • Kent County Food Policy Council is a newly forming food council that will use its funds to develop a governance structure and increase diversity of its membership.
  • Southwest Michigan Local Food Council aims to develop and fully operationalize to make locally grown food more readily available to residents in Southwest Michigan.
  •  Washtenaw County Food Policy Council hired a consultant to refine their plan of work and focus on specific policy agenda items.

Seed grant awardees are asked to attend MLFCN meetings to network, share their experience and expertise, and learn from other councils.

 

The MLFCN’s most recent in-person meeting was in April, hosted by the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council, and featured a special presentation by Wayne Roberts, renowned food policy analyst and former director of the Toronto Food Policy Council. Dr. Roberts shared his experience and advice for creating and sustaining thriving food councils.

 

Local council members from across the state asked Dr. Roberts’ input on issues like addressing food insecurity, using food projects to build “social capital” and strengthen communities, securing funding for council work, and working with elected officials to advance food policy.

 

Markell Miller, Vice Chair of the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council, was in attendance at the meeting and said after:

 

“Wayne Roberts provided inspiration for our local council with his recent talk on food policy councils and how crucial they are for local communities to tackle complex issues with sustainable solutions. He reminded us that for our efforts to be successful, we need to engage sectors that might not normally be leading the charge with food policy, yet are equally affected by the food system.”

 

Seed Grants, Round Two

The Michigan Local Food Council Network (MLFCN) was formed by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) in 2015 to provide a platform for peer-to-peer learning, through which local food councils build their individual and collective capacities to work effectively on food and food policy issues.

 

Many existing and emerging Michigan local food councils rely mostly or solely on volunteers to conduct their work. Conversations with local food councils through MLFCN activities and interviews with councils indicated that seed grant funding would help local food councils build their capacity and accomplish their goals.

 

An intital round of funding was offered in fall 2016 and a second request for proposals, due in mid-June, has recently been released. Seed grant funds can be used for a variety of activities such as hiring staff or consultants to support council operations, conducting strategic planning, or performing community food systems evaluations or assessments.

 

Development of a set of active, high-capacity local food councils in Michigan will also help address local food and food policy issues, build local food leaders, collect useful data, and accelerate progress on the goals of the Michigan Good Food Charter. Councils funded by seed grants are expected to prioritize equity in their work, making efforts to have council membership that reflects the ethnic and racial diversity of the community it serves.

 

New seed grant proposals are due by 5:00pm on Tuesday, June 13.  For complete details, see the request for proposals at http://foodsystems.msu.edu/news/michigan-local-food-council-network-seed-grant-rfp.

 

For more information about local food councils, visit the Michigan Local Food Council Network website.