Originally posted on June 23, 2020 by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, Authors: Kathryn Colasanti and Colleen Matts
The Michigan Farm to Institution Network (MFIN) is a space for learning, sharing, and working together to get more local food to institutions. Network membership is open to institutional food service directors and buyers as well as farmers, food vendors and suppliers, advocates, supporters, and researchers.
On Wednesday, November 20, 2019, MFIN brought together about 75 people from at least 22 different Michigan counties for a day-long gathering. This was the first time MFIN met without partnering with other networks since it first launched in the spring of 2014. The event had three goals: to celebrate farm to institution successes, to facilitate peer networking, and to gather feedback to inform the direction of MFIN beyond 2020.
The gathering included:
- Stories from nine farm to institution practitioners, some heartfelt and some funny, that were a big hit!
- Ten facilitators who gathered feedback from institutional food buyers, farmers and food suppliers, state and local government staff, and other advocates and supporters through two roundtable discussion sessions.
- Three Cultivate Michigan awards that were announced for local purchasing milestones reached by Friendship Centers of Emmet County, West Ottawa Public Schools, and Zeeland Public Schools.
- A keynote by Dr. Diane Golzynski and opening by Keith Soster of University of Michigan Dining that highlighted the evolution of farm to institution in Michigan and the relationships that are the heart of farm to institution programs.
- Seasonal Michigan foods, including more than 10 seasonal items on the salad bar, made for a colorful, hearty lunch, and caramel apples and popcorn were a fun snack.
Overall, the network gathering fulfilled attendees’ expectations of networking with peers, which was one of the event organizers’ three goals for the day. A second goal for the event, to celebrate farm to institution successes, also seemed successful, based on the positive feedback attendees shared both directly to MFIN management team members and anonymously through the event evaluation.