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Helping People Overcome Food System Challenges

Helping People Overcome Food System Challenges

Workgroups to meet April 19-21 in Detroit.

When's the last time a conference produced distribution businesses and public policy? These are the goals of "Making Good Food Work," a three-day conference slated for April 19-21 in Detroit.

"Making Good Food Work" is unlike other conferences though, say organizers. During the event, participant workgroups will address food system challenges.

"Making Good Food Work" attendees will produce real-world results – anything from a business plan for a mobile food market to a marketing strategy for a community supported agriculture endeavor in an underserved area, said Susan Smalley, director of the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State University.

Along the way, participants will attend workshops and consult with specialists in their chosen areas.

The teams that have been formed to work on issues during the conference are:

Developing worker-owned restaurants. Minsu Longirau, coordinator of the Restaurant Opportunity Center, Detroit, will talk about COLORS of Detroit and lead the group in exploring ideas for worker-owned eateries.

Produce sales in food deserts. Ariana Rose Taylor-Stanley of Seattle-based Delridge Produce Cooperative , will lead group members in  exploring affordable ways to get produce into  food deserts (urban areas lacking grocery or other fresh food outlets).

Developing Local Food Enterprises. Hank Herrera of the Sheriff's Activity League of Alameda County California will lead a team in discussions about creating values-based operations..

Establishing a Farm-to-School Hub. This group, led by Andrew Novak and Julia Erlbaum of Slow Food Denver and Real Food Colorado, respectively, will develop a model for a farm-to-school hub incorporating farms of all sizes.

Mobile Food Markets. This group, led by Erin Teal-Littlestar of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture in Alexandria, Va., will focus on urban access to food.

Building a Southeastern Michigan Food Hub. Team members will discuss establishing a center for producing fresh fruit and vegetables that will serve the greater southeastern Michigan area. The group is headed by Susan Fancy of Grass Lake Sanctuary, a retreat center in Manchester.

Creating a Village Marketplace.  Group members will develop a healthy food retail and distribution enterprise, like one found in Los Angeles, and is led by Neelam Sharma, executive director of Community Services Unlimited, a nonprofit organization located in Los Angeles, Calif.

Coordinated Production Planning Tools. Led by Jonathan Reinbold of the Tierra Miguel Foundation of Pauma Valley, Calif., and Sharon Cech of the Urban Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Calif, this group will look at providing options for wholesale and institutional food buyers

Distribution Models Serving Rural Areas. Led by Erin Meier of the University of Minnesota's Regional Sustainable Development Partnership and Sarah Hackney, executive director of the Gorge Grown Food Network in Hood River, Ore, this group will look at food distribution in rural regions.

Establishing Food Business Districts. Headed up by Patty Cantrell, owner of Regional Food Solutions, a northwestern lower Michigan communications and consulting business, group members will look at how to take steps in opening doors to building local food districts.

Food Distribution, Social Justice, and Equity. Led by Professor Alfonso Morales of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning, this team will explore issues specific to southeastern Michigan.

Marketing Fresh, Local Food with an Emphasis on Large-Scale Buyers. This team will be led by Bob Corshen, director of the  Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, Calif.

The conference keynote speakers are Kathleen A. Merrigan, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. Other speakers include Michelle Rehmann, farm to food service director for the Food System Economic Partnership, an organization that serves five southeastern Michigan counties; Chef Phil of the Antheneum Hotel, Detroit; and Paul Saginaw, co-owner and founding partner of Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor.

Workshops will focus on such topics as  access to capital, planning, pricing and packaging,  issues  affecting food hub start-ups,  marketing local and regional food,  Detroit's alternative distribution systems and creating networks and a culture of collaboration.

The registration fee is $150. To learn more about the conference, visit

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