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Network aims to boost Michigan-produced food

Excerpt:

A new network aims to connect farmers, food processors and food service directors as part of an effort to increase the amount of Michigan-produced food served in schools, hospitals and other institutions.

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Farm bill's new SNAP incentive: Don't celebrate just yet

Excerpt:

Some local food advocates are applauding the new Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program in the finally-passed farm bill. The idea is to provide cash incentives to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps) for healthy eating. But a closer look reveals the celebration may be premature at best.

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Cuts in food assistance start today, impacting vulnerable children nationwide

Excerpt:

Beginning today, nearly 47 million people, including 22 million children nationwide, will see their food assistance benefits cut, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires.

The reduction stems from the fact that a modest boost in benefits included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has now ended. While SNAP enrollment growth has slowed this year, national enrollment remains high because many families continue to face a job market that remains weak and other hardships resulting from a slow economic recovery.

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USDA grant to help ramp up local foods in school districts

The Michigan Land Use Institute has long been a big backer of the idea that local food should be served in local schools. It seems that the USDA agrees with the organization, as they just gave them a two-year, $100,000 grand to help expand the local Farm to School program.

The grant allows MLUI to partner with eight local districts and area farmers to invest in cold storage and processing equipment to scale up local food procurement by the schools. It also allows MLUI to expand the farm to school activities that it currently operates in six schools.

The grant is going to make it easier for local schools to serve fruits and vegetables that are produced by local farmer across northern Michigan. The result will help local agriculture while teaching kids the importance of local food and healthy eating habits.

Additionally, food service directors have identified a need for washed, dried and bagged salad greens and cut vegetables, but the many farms in the region that typically grow vegetables don’t have the capacity or infrastructure to meet the needs of the region’s schools. The grant will help secure new, centrally located equipment for commercial-scale preparation, making it possible and more cost-effective for growers to scale up vegetable production to benefit schools.

The MLUI grant is one of 68 awarded by the USDA to organizations in 37 states and Washington, D.C., to connect schools with local agricultural producers. These are the first USDA Farm to School grants.

Writer: Sam Eggleston
Source: Michigan Land Use Institute

U-M researchers to study 'food security' across Michigan

"Researchers at the School of Natural Resources and Environment are leading a five-year, $4 million study of disparities in access to healthy food across the state.

'The researchers will interview residents and study data in 18 small to mid-sized cities to better understand the factors affecting 'food security,' a socioeconomic term that defines easy access to safe and healthy food."

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Cooking and the Community: It Matters

Detroit area food bloggers participate in the Gleaners Community Food Bank class "Cooking Matters" and learn more about the program and its importance within the community.

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Americans overwhelmingly support doubling food stamp value at farmers markets

Three-quarters of Americans support a nationwide program to double the value of SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps) when used at farmers markets, according to a recent survey commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The poll finds strong support for making produce affordable and accessible to all Americans and that officials at all levels—national, state and local—have a role to play in ensuring that access.

“Americans want produce that is healthy, affordable, green and fair,” said Dr. Gail Christopher, vice president – program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We see strong support here for food that is good not only for the people eating it, but also for the people producing it.”

The survey was released today at the foundation’s Food & Community Conference, a gathering of more than 600 active participants in the good food movement, including farmers, school food workers, academics, urban agriculture pioneers, filmmakers, health activists, writers and more.

In the poll, 68 percent of those surveyed said it was “very important” that all Americans have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables; an additional 25 percent said it is “somewhat important.”

Michigan’s Double Up Food Bucks has worked successfully to increase access to fresh produce among low-income families by doubling the value of SNAP benefits at farmers markets. Seventy-five percent of poll participants said they support a similar program at the national level as a way to help American produce farmers and low-income families.

Strong support for farmworkers and local growers
Respondents also showed support for those harvesting their produce. Asked if they would be willing to pay $1.50 more for produce each month to ensure fair wages are paid to those picking fruits and vegetables, 88 percent strongly or partly agreed. A study by the Economic Policy Institute said such a raise would increase the pay of a farm worker making $10,000 a year to $14,000, which would be above the poverty line.

Americans also stand behind their local growers. More than 80 percent strongly or partly agreed that Washington, D.C. should shift its support toward smaller, local fruit and vegetable farmers and away from large farm businesses. Nearly 90 percent strongly or partly agreed they would pay more for produce if that money stayed in the community.

Officials have a role in ensuring access to fresh produce
Those surveyed said national, state and local officials, as well as community members, have a role to play in ensuring that people have access to local, fresh produce:
  • *81 percent strongly or partly agree that Washington, DC, needs to do more to increase access to locally produced fruits and vegetables.
  • *86 percent strongly or partly agree that state and local officials should play a role in ensuring access to local, fresh food.
  • *89 percent strongly or partly agree that the community needs to play a role in ensuring access to local, fresh food.
Moreover, people are putting both money and time into supporting local, fresh produce. Seventy percent reported shopping at farmers markets in the past year, while 45 percent said they’d gotten food from their own garden or farm. Sixty-eight percent said they eat more fresh produce than they did five years ago.

“Americans are telling us they support a values-based food system,” Dr. Christopher said.

“They favor locally grown and produced food, community involvement, sustainability and fairness, which helps to ensure safe, healthy and affordable food for everyone.”

The survey was conducted by Lauer Johnson Research of 800 adults using mobile or landline phones from April 18–22, 2012. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The full poll and results are available at www.foodandcommunity.org/conference. You can also follow WKKF on twitter at @wk_kellogg_fdn.

USDA award recognizes success of Fair Food Network’s farmers market incentive program

In recognition of Fair Food Network’s (FFN) successful Double Up Food Bucks program at Michigan farmers markets, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe visited FFN in Ann Arbor on April 3 to present the W.K. Kellogg Foundation grantee with a USDA Certificate of Appreciation for its efforts in supporting farmers markets and ensuring access to fresh, healthy and local food.

Double Up Food Bucks is an incentive program that doubles the value of SNAP dollars (previously called food stamps) when consumers use them to buy fresh produce at Michigan farmers markets. 

“All of us at Fair Food Network are pleased and proud to receive this recognition from the USDA,” said Oran Hesterman, president and CEO, Fair Food Network. “I know that the success of the Double Up Food Bucks program in Michigan is due to the tremendous support we receive – from generous funders, farmers market managers and the farmers who actually put the program into practice. It is simply an idea whose time has come.”

Double Up Food Bucks has proven a win-win for both low-income and farming families in Michigan by increasing access to healthy food and profits for those who market it. SNAP sales at Michigan farmers markets grew from $16,000 in 2007 to $1.1 million in 2011, stimulated in large part by the impact of the Double Up Food Bucks program.  At $1.1 million, Michigan led the Midwest in SNAP sales, followed by Ohio at just over $167,000 and Wisconsin at $77,000.  
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