Tackling Food Deserts In Michigan
Farmers market. Photo by Ivan LaBianca.
We offer a tool kit of programs and services for farmers in both English and Spanish.
(Note: These are PDF documents and require Adobe Acrobat for download)
"Ensuring that our children eat fresh, healthy food is crucial for their development. It's crucial because we know that if they're able to eat fresh, healthy food they perform better in school, have fewer health issues over a lifetime and live longer and healthier lives."
- Jocelyn Sargent, program officer for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation
What are you having for dinner? Imagine trying to answer that question if you couldn’t get to a grocery store all week.
That’s the reality for more than 23 million Americans who live in “food deserts.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a food desert is a low-income area where at least 33 percent of the population has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. In urban areas low access means living more than a mile from the nearest grocery store; in rural areas its 10 miles. (Check out the USDA food desert locator map here).
Many people living in rural food deserts do not own a car nor do they have access to public transportation. The closest place to buy food is typically a convenient store or small shop where fresh fruits and vegetables are in short supply.
Farmers Markets & Food Deserts
But with the right strategies, food access can increase in these deserts, drastically improving quality of life. Farmers’ markets are one example. More than 7,800 farmers’ markets currently operate in the U.S.—more than double the number from a decade ago.
Michigan has 250 farmers’ markets. However, those in poorer, rural communities often lack the facilities required to provide and sell a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy. And area residents are often unaware that affordable healthy food is available right in their own neighborhoods.
What We Are Doing
With a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we are helping minority farmers with small- and mid-size farms increase crop production and get their goods to farmers’ markets by providing micro loans. We’ll also be providing small grants to farmers markets to provide infrastructure needed increase access of healthy food for low income families. Our small grants also support community groups so they can develop educational demonstrations, activities at rural farmers’ markets and coupons for families to use at the market to purchase fresh produce. These activities will aim to encourage young people and families to eat healthier and make the right food choices.
Our Midwest Director, Peg Kohring, who lives in one of the counties, was inspired to launch this project by the need in her own community—where many kids and families cannot walk to a supermarket. “In order to get more healthy options from the fields to the families in need we have to provide practical solutions to the challenges facing growers, sellers and communities. Many minority farmers in Michigan do not have the resources they need to grow more produce and improve their profitability. This project will better equip farmers and farmers’ markets to become a vibrant part of the local infrastructure and ultimately provide a robust selection of healthy food options.”
In 2013, we implemented a program that provides coupons for kids to use at the farmer’s market. We conducted a focus group of the program and learned that the coupons have resulted in higher consumption of fruits and vegetables in vulnerable children and are a significant reason why families go to the market. The coupons also provide budget relief, nutrition variety, nutrition education and critical support for the local food economy.
Our Green Infrastructure team also created a set of maps to illustrate the variables that determine greatest need, such as the locations of food deserts and minority-owned farms. Together, they provide the information needed to determine the best places to disperse grant money. Download the maps by clicking on the links to the right.
Click on the maps below for more information:
|Access To Healthy Foods By County|
|Minority Farms By County In Michigan|
|Farmers Markets And Priority Counties For Grant Money In Michigan|