"Food Makes Michigan Great Again" Wayne Roberts' blog features Michigan Local Food Council Network
Author: Andrea Sexton
August 24, 2017
Wayne Roberts & Rich Pirog pause for a photo at the Michigan Local Food Council Network's May 2017 meeting
Renowned food policy analyst and writer Wayne Roberts visited Michigan in May 2017 to speak and learn more about food systems work happening in southeast Michigan.
Roberts shared highlights from his trip in a June blog post. In the excerpt below, he praises the Michigan Local Food Council Network, and the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems as a coordinating organization.
The full post may be found on Robert's blog.
MICHIGAN LOCAL FOOD COUNCIL NETWORK
I was surprised to learn that Michigan has more food policy councils than any state or province on the continent. Leaders of many of these councils, members of the Michigan Local Food Council Network, met the day before I left, and gave me a chance to speak with them.
One feature of this Network, which others across the continent might do well to imitate, is that support for the Network is provided by the Center for Regional Food Systems and its director Rich Pirog.* This is an example of one form of core funding that can be provided to food organizations by the government and public sector.
The food movement, largely based in civil society, is desperately lacking in funding because the goals it pursues rarely provide a revenue stream for one beneficiary who will therefore invest in it. Instead, food movement projects usually benefit a wide range of people, none of whom are exclusive beneficiaries. Consequently, the food movement is starving for funds because it benefits so many people — the problem of “collective action failure” brilliantly analyzed by Mancur Olson. One function of government is to overcome such collective action failures and “market failures” by funding organizations with whole-of-society mandates and benefits, thereby enabling them to do their work. One way for governments to channel such funding is through organizations such as the Center for Regional Food Systems.
Anything that I or anyone else said at the meeting was overshadowed by the good cheer and positive energy at that meeting. That kind of energy just waiting to land, and one place it landed was at the lunch table where Rich and I sat. By the end of the lunch, we and Lesli had hatched a plan for a research project that could win food policy councils their place in the sun of local communities.
*Editor's note: the Michigan Local Food Council Network is co-coordinated by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems and ENP & Associates.