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Ag Orgs Partner to Promote Local Food Purchasing
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Source: Michigan State University, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Source: Michigan State University, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Contact: Kendra Wills at 616-336-2028


MSU Extension and West Michigan FarmLink Partner to Promote Local Food Purchasing

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is partnering with West Michigan FarmLink to host an open house for K-12 school and college food service directors beginning at 2 p.m., Jan. 25 at the West Michigan Co-Op in Grand Rapids, Mich. West Michigan FarmLink is an online ordering system currently used by many Grand Rapids restaurants to access locally grown and produced foods. FarmLink offers a centralized, weekly pick-up location in Grand Rapids. FarmLink is now expanding this service to interested schools. To date, 33 farm vendors sell their products through FarmLink.

Scott Hawkins of West Michigan FarmLink will be present to help food service directors become familiar with the online ordering system and will facilitate introductions with local farmers.

“Even though there won’t necessarily be a lot of produce available for purchase at the January event, food service directors will be able to talk with farmers about the foods they are interested in purchasing and farmers will be able to plan their spring plantings around these needs,” said Kendra Wills, Extension educator in west Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Community Health published a 2011 report stating that 80 percent of Michigan’s youth do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, Wills noted.

“Offering fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables instead of canned or foods shipped from hundreds of miles may help schools increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students,” she said.

A farm-to-school evaluation study published in a 2008 report by the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition showed that those schools with a farm-to-school salad bar increased students’ fruit and vegetable consumption between 25 and 85 percent. Schools offering locally grown foods without a salad bar increased fruit and vegetable consumption by 60 percent, as reported by students to the journal, Wills said.

Wills is a member of the Community Food Systems Workgroup within MSU Extension and partners with Michigan’s Farm to School program coordinated by the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at MSU.

There is no charge for admission to the West Michigan FarmLink Open House. The location of the event is 1111 Godfrey SW, Grand Rapids, which is the same location as the West Michigan Co-Op on the corner of Hall and Godfrey, just west of U.S. 131 and the Hall Street exit.

Interested participants, please R.S.V.P. to Kendra Wills at willsk@anr.msu.edu or 616-336-2028 by Jan. 20.