Michigan can grow more jobs by investing in its farmers market food infrastructure and simultaneously help improve the health of the population, according to a report released today by the Michigan Food Policy Council (MFPC).
The MFPC report, titled, "Cultivate a Safe, Healthy, Accessible Food Supply and Build Michigan's Economy," outlines recommendations for building capacity among local food businesses and how such an investment would help boost local economies. The comprehensive analysis of Michigan's food sector and its economic impact was created by task force members representing agriculture, economic development, health care, anti-hunger organizations, community food systems and educational groups in a system-wide collaboration.
"Small food growers and farmers markets are poised to grow and have potential to create new jobs; however, some barriers need to be removed," says Jamie Clover Adams, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director. "By helping small, local farmers connect with large retail and institutional purchasers, local economies across the state will reap the benefits and we'll all have access to a healthier food supply."
The report points out that nearly one million Michigan residents lack access to healthy, fresh food, yet small farms and growers have the capacity to feed those underserved communities. Many urban and rural residents simply have no accessible source for fresh, healthy food, when no supermarket, grocery store or farmers market is within travel distance. Small farms that want to grow face significant hurdles, such as inadequate financial capital and expensive safety certification audits geared for much larger growers.
"If we can provide the right level of support to emerging food businesses, such as in obtaining federal grants as an alternative to traditional loans, or providing assistance with the certification audits, the economic and health return on our investment would be tremendous," says Kevin Besey, MDARD Food and Dairy Division director. "It means more jobs for struggling communities, more access to healthy food and new local food sources for large purchasers, such as hospitals and schools."