Agricultural Forum: Building the local food economy for all | Business


Next week, many of us will reunite with our families and enjoy a nourishing Thanksgiving meal brimming with love.

We will express our thanks for the hands who prepared the food, toiled on the stoves and looked after the perfectly roasted turkeys. We will thank the person who dragged the extra chair from the basement, or the person who volunteered to come to the store for that ice pack.

But let us not forget either to thank the farmer who, without his great commitment of spirit, body and soul in his work, would leave us without good food to prepare.

In my role as an educator, every year around this time I try to present a “story of the food system” in my classes. The goal is to help children understand and appreciate the many hands that bring a meal to our table – from seed to plate (or cafeteria tray, as the case may be). Several years ago, as I was teaching this lesson to a class of kindergarten children at Central Lake Elementary School, I was confronted with how the story of cooking a simple meal for your family may vary from household to household.

“This one is the pantry!” Dylan said, pointing to a picture I was asking a small group of 4 to 5 year olds to identify.

Dylan (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) was referring to the history of the food system which I presented as the link between producers and consumers, or “where you go to get your food”. Dylan’s frankness in referring to the pantry as “where you go to get your food” immediately struck a chord. It was clear that in the eyes of this child, doing most of his shopping in the local pantry was just a reality.

In the years since this lesson, I have seen communities in Northwest Michigan come together to ensure that the most vulnerable among us have access to the incredible amount of fresh, local, and healthy food that we have. our community produces so skillfully. Local organizations like the Father Fred Foundation have made access to healthy food a central point of their organization. The state’s most disadvantaged schools report that, thanks to initiatives such as Michigan’s 10 Cents a Meal program, launched by the Groundwork Center, more school children have better access to healthy, local food than ever before .

This year, when I sit down to dinner and thank my family, I will put aside the temptation to participate in heated political debates and focus on the things that matter locally – moving forward together to make our community the best place possible. . to be, for all.

For more information on the Father Fred Foundation’s commitment to serving fresh, local food, contact Les Hagaman’s Director of Operations, [email protected]

For more information on Michigan’s 10 Cents a Meal initiative, contact Diane Conners, Senior Policy Specialist at the Groundwork Center, [email protected]

To learn more about how the Groundwork Center is working to link access to healthy food in pantries with farm-to-school programs, contact Meghan McDermott, [email protected]

Meghan McDermott is Policy Specialist at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Her work focuses on increasing access to local food for all members of our community, particularly by supporting healthy food environments in schools and pantries.


Jennifer C. Burleigh

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