The Michigan Local Food Council Network
Local food council members gather on May 27, 2015 at the first official MLFCN meeting. Photo courtesy Megan Masson-Minock.
By Kathleen Reed, Liz Gensler, and Kathryn Colasanti, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
Over the course of 2014, the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) contracted with a consultant in order to determine 1) the level of interest in a statewide food council network and 2) what the desired functions of such a network would be in Michigan. Interviews were held with stakeholders throughout the state and the information gathered revealed strong support for a statewide food council network. These findings corroborated work done by the Michigan Food Policy Council in 2012.
The December 2014 report, Advancing a Local Food Council Network in Michigan, summarizes the findings and outlines the roles for such a network. It also provides background on the recent history of local food council collaboration and the impetus for creating this statewide network.
About the Michigan Local Food Council Network
The Michigan Local Food Council Network (MLFCN) defines a ‘local food council’ as a group convening around a distinct geographic area to assess and recommend practices or policies that affect one or more aspects of the food system.
The MLFCN brings together food councils in order to build their individual and collective capacities to work on food and food policy issues, operate effectively, and engage their communities. All Michigan local food councils, as well as those considering forming a local food council, are invited to participate in this statewide network.
The main roles of the Michigan Local Food Council Network are to:
- Provide a space for local councils to network with and learn from one another
- Connect local councils to statewide policy information, issues, and actions
- Assist local councils in building capacity
- Provide hands-on training to local food councils
- Connect local policy information, issues, and actions to other parts of the state
- Connect local councils to national policy information, issues, and actions
CRFS sponsors the network, with coordination by Megan Masson-Minock at ENP & Associates and Andrea Brown at the Michigan Association of Planning. Support for the network is made possible through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Michigan Local Food Council Network Meetings
The MLFCN held its first official meeting on May 27. Six local food councils sent representatives and several other individuals attended as a way to explore the formation of new councils in their area. Attendees heard updates on the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development‘s (MDARD) Interdepartmental Collaboration Council’s Food Policy Subcommittee, federal food policy currently moving through Congress, and the CRFS-led Shared Measurement Project. Participants also engaged in discussion about an Urban Livestock Workgroup report, which was recently commissioned by MDARD to formulate recommendations on raising livestock in urban and suburban areas.
The MLFCN will meet six times a year, with three in-person meetings (held in varying locations throughout the state) and three virtual meetings that will be focused on training. The MLFCN plans to hold a policy/advocacy online training session during the summer. The next in-person meeting is slated for October in Detroit and may be held in conjunction with the Michigan Association of Planning’s annual conference, allowing network members to connect with local officials and potentially share their work with planners in this forum.