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Michigan Good Food

Healthy food means good nourishment, especially “green” cuisine that comes from environmentally sustainable sources. Fair food means nutritious food that everyone can afford. That’s where Michigan Good Food comes in. Centered around the Michigan Good Food Charter, Michigan Good Food is a policy initiative that fosters policy changes to promote healthy, affordable food for all ages, especially at-risk youth.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Academic Specialist/Michigan Good Food Coordinator Kathryn Colasanti: The Michigan Good Food policy initiative is unique. It creates a big tent containing elements of all different types of groups and individuals: farmers, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, restaurants, and planning commissions. Universities, neighborhood organizations, school children, and migrant labor communities can all identify with it and bring their diverse elements together in a framework that everyone can stand behind.
The Michigan Good Food initiative’s intention is to inspire and empower people all across the state to work toward, and advocate for, the charter’s goals in their own community and in their own way. This could mean a local food system group adopting the whole set of charter goals or a state coalition aligning with one goal that is relevant to their organization’s scope. It could also mean a small group of advocates choosing to educate their elected officials on a couple of the agenda priorities that are important in their community.
By offering a comprehensive vision for the food system, along with a set of goals spanning numerous sectors, The Michigan Good Food Charter (which Michigan Good Food is based on), brings many groups and interests to the table to identify
The goals and agenda priorities in the charter were developed through a grassroots process involving hundreds of people from across Michigan.
specific steps that Michigan can take to create a system based on good food that is healthy, green, fair. and affordable. 
One of our main goals is to increase access to healthy food for Michigan residents; achieving this goal for vulnerable children and their families is where we want to focus our efforts.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
We held the 2012 Michigan Good Food Summit, last June. We expected that many of the participants would be familiar with the initiative and would have attended the first statewide summit in 2010. During the conference, however, it became apparent that we were not adequately prepared for the number of new people in attendance. When we analyzed the registration afterward, we were completely blown away by the fact that nearly two-thirds of the nearly 350 people there had not attended at the first summit.
This information told us that we didn’t do a good enough job providing background information on the Michigan Good Food initiative. But, we were thrilled that so many new people were coming to the table. We are excited to expand our network and looking forward to better engaging new people at future summits.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
One of the challenges that we’re facing is the realization that measuring progress toward the six goals that the charter has laid out is not going to be as straightforward as we assumed it would be. We were careful to put forward measureable goals but we were not careful enough in determining whether the data needed would actually be available and obtainable.
For example, we’d like to analyze the amount of food that Michigan produces, but it is simply not possible to obtain accurate information across the full supply chain.
Instead, we’re working on creative ways to obtain proxy measurements that get as close to the heart of each goal as
Too often, vulnerable children are among those who are least likely to have access to good, healthy food, and without it, children do not get the nourishment they need to thrive.
possible. The unanticipated complexity of measuring progress has presented us with challenges, both in terms of the time required to identify the most appropriate data collection mechanisms and potentially hampering momentum from The Michigan Good Food Charter supporters who are trying to understand the extent of progress and how to measure these changes in their own communities.
What really differentiates this program?
What really makes Michigan Good Food unique is that there is no central ownership or control over the initiative. The goals and agenda priorities in the charter were developed through a grassroots process involving hundreds of people from across Michigan. As the Michigan Good Food initiative moves forward, many different groups are working to advocate for and implement those goals and agenda priorities in many different ways.
As a staff member at the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, I work to coordinate communications, resource development, and measurement of progress on a part-time basis. The center, as a whole, aims to align its state-level work with the goals of the Michigan Good Food Charter, but has minimal capacity to implement the goals. This requires leveraging the capacity of many different organizations and actions by multiple stakeholder groups.
What are the keys to success for your program?
Reaching the goals of the Michigan Good Food Charter requires energy, commitment, and resources from a broad array of Michigan organizations and individuals. These goals are far too large for one organization to tackle alone. Our success depends on research to identify successful models and funding to implement best practices, along with the advocacy and education that is necessary to change policy and practices.
To keep people engaged, we continue to share successes stories and share the many ways that people can become involved in advancing their priorities. We support advocates by helping to provide them with the resources they need.
How does the work of your program specifically address the needs of vulnerable children?
Too often, vulnerable children are among those who are least likely to have access to good, healthy food, and without it, children do not get the nourishment they need to thrive. The initiative strives to develop a food system that will foster a thriving economy, equity, and sustainability for all people in the state.
If we can achieve that, we will live in place where there are social and economic opportunities for all children -- a place where fewer children are left in vulnerable circumstances, and without proper nourishment. 
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  • MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
    To engage the people of Michigan, the United States and the world in applied research, education and outreach to develop regionally integrated, sustainable food systems.


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