Farm to fork conference focuses on food issues

Macomb County Local Food System Conference will share wealth of information about food access, food safety and urban agriculture.

MACOMB –   The Macomb Food Systems Collaborative has created a one-day conference for people who grow, produce, process, market, distribute, prepare or eat food.

 A group of local Macomb county agencies and organizations have been meeting since last July to analyze the food system in Macomb County.  A primary objective for the Food Systems Collaborative is to inform and educate residents on what the Macomb County local food system looks like.  Secondly, the group hopes to share how people and communities can become involved in the local food movement. 

The All About Food – From Farm to Fork Food Systems Conference will be held at the Macomb ISD on Feb. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The program will kick off with a welcome by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, and the keynote address will be given by Mike Hamm, a C.S. Mott professor of sustainable agriculture at Michigan State University, and his work with the Good Food Charter.  The $15 registration fee will provide a locally procured and prepared lunch and  20 different program sessions  ranging from how to start a community garden, how to purchase local food for schools, information about summer meal programs and sites and food demonstrations on what to do with rutabagas, kohlrabi and kale.  There will be sessions for growers and farmers, for schools and hospitals, and sessions for people just wanting more information about food and gardening.  The full conference brochure can be found at this link

The Macomb Food Systems Collaborative is a group of Macomb County agencies and organizations:  Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, New Baltimore Farmers Market Director, School Garden Network of Macomb County, Macomb Food Program, Gleaners, Forgotten Harvest, Macomb County Board of Commissioners, United Way of Southeast Michigan, Macomb ISD, TLC Community Gardens of Mt. Clemens, MCREST, Macomb Health Department, Macomb Planning and Economic Development, Macomb Daily, Office of Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, and Congressman Sander Levin’s office.

The Macomb Food Systems Collaborative has been collecting data on food access that includes information on free and reduced lunch programs in schools, farmers markets and Bridge Card usage, high poverty and minority areas of the county, food programs, community gardens, and how food is grown, processed, prepared, eaten, sold and distributed in Macomb County. The group has identified many positive aspects of local food systems and several areas of concern.

One issue the group plans to address as soon as possible is the lack of farmers markets that accept Bridge Cards in Macomb County. This limits the food choices for low-income families as well as the market potential of farmers markets. On the positive side, the group has identified many community and school garden programs that are donating the produce they grow to food pantries.

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