Food and farming group expands to Charlevoix-Emmet region

The Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, the Traverse City-based nonprofit working to protect what you love about Northern Michigan, is expanding its reach into Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

On June 15, Groundwork launched a new Petoskey office to support an expansion of the organization’s farm to school, food access, and farmer support projects.

“We’ve been working with partners in this region for a number of years,” said Executive Director Hans Voss. “Recently we were invited by community leaders to expand our programs in a way that would benefit the local communities. This is a great opportunity to increase our impact.”

For more than a decade Groundwork has advanced a stronger local food system in northwest Michigan.

The organization has built strong partnerships with projects such as: Taste the Local Difference; the Food and Farming Network of Northwest Michigan, and 10 Cents A Meal.

The project will help expand programming to Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties, including Petoskey, Charlevoix, Boyne City, Harbor Springs and Pellston.

In 2015 the Local Food Alliance (LFA) of Northern Michigan approached Groundwork about a desire to increase the region’s capacity to build on their all-volunteer group’s accomplishments.

“The Local Food Alliance has had success planning and implementing the new initiatives in the Petoskey area, but we knew that in order to change the entire regional food system, it was going to take more horses ‘pulling the plow’,” said Wendy Wieland, an LFA member who works with food and farm entrepreneurs through Michigan State University Extension.

“Changing the way we eat can have huge payoffs, but it requires tremendous talent and collaborative partners, like Groundwork and the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, that are willing to commit to a long-term process.”

The expansion of Groundwork’s farm-to-school and food access programs will help connect vulnerable children and families to healthy, local food through a series of strategic initiatives implemented in schools, food pantries and meal sites throughout the region.

By working with teachers, parents, administrators, food service staff, and other school health advocates, Groundwork’s farm to school programs help children lead healthier lives, and provide a positive economic impact for local farmers and school meal programs.

According to a 2014 study conducted by Feeding America, nationally, 15.7% of Michigan children experience food insecurity. Antrim (22.9%), Charlevoix (20.3%) and Emmet (19.2%) counties all have higher rates of food insecurity than Michigan as a whole.

With many low-income families utilizing food pantries and meal sites as primary sources of food during times of economic hardship, the foods offered in these places become another critical intervention point in the effort to increase access to healthy, local food for children and families.

That’s why Groundwork is expanding its important food and farming work to Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.