Oct 31, 2018
Michigan outlets cited for farm to institution achievements

Four institutions were recognized as the first-ever “Cultivate Michigan” awardees, for their efforts to source locally-grown food from Michigan farmers. Two hospitals, one senior program and one school district were commended for their participation in Cultivate Michigan, a statewide local food purchasing campaign targeting farm to institution program growth.

“When we launched Cultivate Michigan in 2014, we knew of many institutions purchasing local foods and expanding those efforts each year. We also knew that getting data on those purchases would require extra energy and attention,” said Colleen Matts, Farm to Institution Specialist at the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and coordinator of the Michigan Farm to Institution Network, which manages Cultivate Michigan.

“We are so happy to recognize these exceptional professionals for their ongoing, honorable work to purchase and serve local foods and for going the extra mile to track their institutions’ contributions to the Michigan economy,” Matts said.

The inaugural awardees are recognized for reaching key milestones toward the Michigan Good Food Charter goal of securing 20 percent of their food purchases from Michigan producers by 2020:

  • Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, for 5% local food purchasing reached in 2016;
  • Beaumont Hospital, Troy, part of Beaumont Health, for 5% reached in 2016 and 2017;
  • Friendship Centers of Emmet County, with three locations in Petoskey, Brutus and Pellston, for 10% reached in 2016 and 2017; and
  • Grand Haven Public Schools, for 15% reached in 2016.

The awards were presented as framed posters at the Michigan Good Food Summit in East Lansing. Each institution will also receive a financial award for food service equipment to help with their continued local food purchasing efforts.

“As a nurse, I know the importance of eating healthy food to prevent illness and to maintain vitality as seniors age,” said Christine Scott, the Health Services Director for Friendship Centers of Emmet County who has been tracking local food purchases through Cultivate Michigan.

Food purchasing for Friendship Centers prioritizes sourcing local food and offering fresh and healthy foods to the seniors they serve. Friendship Centers has been gradually expanding their Farm to Senior program and aims to achieve the 20 percent by 2020 goal.

“As a non-profit institution, we have faced our share of hurdles and barriers as we try to purchase the amount of food we need at the price point we can afford. I am very proud of what we have accomplished so far,” remarked Scott.

Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, worked with food suppliers to increase local food purchases. “We have come a long way in the past couple of years,” said Michele Nikolai, Clinical Nutrition Manager for Sparrow Health System who manages the Cultivate Michigan account. “This has been accomplished by working with our main distributors to provide us with local purchasing options and adding new Michigan-based vendors and distributors.”

Local food purchasing is part of Sparrow Hospital’s many healthy food initiatives for patients, employees and community members, with partners ranging from Lansing-based Allen Neighborhood Center and Greater Lansing Food Bank, to statewide Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Health and Hospital Association and the global organization Health Care Without Harm.

The Director of Nutrition Services at Beaumont, Troy, Ann Kovl, noted, “We appreciate the opportunities that are available through Cultivate Michigan. We plan to continue increasing our local food purchases as 2020 approaches.”

The Cultivate Michigan campaign provides tools and resources to support participating institutions in sourcing local food and tracking progress toward that goal. To be eligible for a Cultivate Michigan award, institutions must be members of Cultivate Michigan and must have used the Cultivate Michigan online platform to regularly track local food purchases for at least three of four quarters in a preceding year.

To date, 67 institutions across the state have joined Cultivate Michigan. These institutions include early care and education programs, K-12 schools, hospitals and health care systems, colleges and universities, senior facilities and other entities that purchase food. Nearly two-thirds of participating institutions (44) are schools and school districts and one-fifth are hospitals and health care systems (13).

Michigan institutions participating in the Cultivate Michigan campaign reported spending over $4 million on Michigan-grown or Michigan-produced foods from January 2014 to January 2018, according to a recent brief published by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems.

– James Dau, MSU Communications & Farm News Media

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