The Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network held its Annual Summit March 21st. In addition to transitioning Network leadership to Kelly Lively of Cherry Capital Foods, the Annual Chapman award was presented. This award, named for Johnny Appleseed, is given each year to the person that embodies the exceptional pioneering spirit that is remaking American agriculture right here in northwest Michigan.
Kim Baker Executive Director of Petoskey-based Manna Food Project was recognized for his efforts to provide locally grown food to pantry patrons through innovative partnerships with area farms. By both purchasing produce and reducing food waste through on-farm gleaning, Baker has become a premier example of food equity work.
Manna provides nearly 1.5 million pounds of food to 24 pantries and 18 community kitchens in Antrim, Charlevoix, and Emmet counties. Lynne DeMoor of the Health Department of Northwest Michigan boasts, “He is brimming with integrity and innovation in his solutions. He is willing to invest time and energy into developing a menu of procurement methods with local farmers and is dedicated to their livelihoods as well as the health of families that rely on food pantries to put food on their tables.”
Often during growing season farms produce beyond what they can sell at market, creating food waste. Manna has become an outlet by either funding the staff time or providing volunteers to glean excess produce. Brian Bates of Bear Creek Organic Farm, who values his partnership with Manna Food Project explains, “They supply the boxes, provide the refrigerated transportation. All we have to do is get the crop harvested and palletized for them to load up. With this method, we could easily harvest several pallets of lettuce in an hour, and instead of plowing that crop in, we are reducing food waste and feeding top-quality produce to folks that deserve it.”
By sourcing direct, Manna supports a resilient local food economy. “The Network of partners, like The Health Department of Northwest Michigan, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and MSU Extension laid the systems in place that made local food accessible for food rescue operations like my own. If getting nutrient dense food into Manna food pantries means helping out local farms, then it’s a win-win-win”, says Baker.
In the coming season, eight local farms will grow crops specifically for Manna, one farm will invite volunteers to harvest weekly. These creative partnerships feed people healthy food, keep our dollars local and support farms. Kim expresses his gratitude for those involved,“ I can’t say enough about the willingness of local growers to participate in this process.”
Manna Food Project provides high-quality food to the community while eliminating food waste. More importantly does so in a way that supports farm viability through the purchase of fresh, local food. Now, as it should be, those in need are able to access the best Michigan soil has to offer. For this innovative work, the Food and Farming Network recognizes Kim Baker a leader in innovative food access solutions.