March 9, 2021 | 10:00-11:30 am EST
This session explores opportunities for next steps toward becoming a more food secure region. This session summarizes the resources, strengths, challenges, and proposed solutions shared in the first five sessions. Participants weigh in and share reflections and help prioritize ideas for action, including short and long-term solutions to address food insecurity and related issues such as housing, child care, health care, and transportation.
Session Six Recording
- Good morning. Thank you, Mary. Thank you, especially for your support and your leadership as Chairman of our Operating Committee too. Welcome to each of you today. And we thank you for your new interest or your renewed interest in learning more about food security and insecurity in our area. As you may have learned from being here for other sessions, the Northwest Food Coalition has more than 46 pantries, 16 meals sites and baby pantries around our six-County rural areas. We have sites serving 3,500 people a month and we have many that are under 100 a month. And each site is unique in the way that they distribute food. In June we'll have our 27th birthday and we don't look at all like we did back at the beginning. We were one of the seven grassroots pilot coalitions around the state and we just had eight pantries when we started as members, today we're the only original coalition still operating and growing. This session is going to add to your knowledge of food security and perhaps you have ideas on how you can help with us as we continue forward. We have some wonderful panelists and speakers today who will share more of their experiences with you. You also be given an opportunity to get on our moving train to use your talents and gifts in helping our neighbors here and sharing information with other people. Our moderator, Megan Olds owner of Parallel Solutions who again lead us by presenting our speakers question and answer times and instructions. Thank you for all your leadership in organizing this summit, Megan. It takes a lot of people to put this all together and you have done a great job. So, Megan, thank you.
- Oh, thank you, Val. And thank you and Mary, both for your leadership with this summit and for all the work you do with the coalition. We are excited to explore some key takeaways today. And in order to do that we have a suite of incredible panelists joining us. I'm going to invite them to go ahead and turn on their videos right now so that I can introduce them. But while they're doing that, I'd like to share a reminder with all of us participants that we would love for you to introduce yourselves in the chat and engage with each other through that chat function. And as you hear our speakers and panelists today, we'd also like to invite you to use the Q&A to share any questions you have for our speakers and panelists. We will be doing a facilitated Q&A for about 20 minutes at the end of our session today. So, if something piques your interest or if there's something you just would like to learn more about, please use that Q&A feature to share your questions with panelists. I'm gonna go ahead and introduce our speakers here. First, we have joining us, Dan Buron. Dan is the Executive Director of Goodwill Northern Michigan a nonprofit social enterprise that operates nine retail and e-commerce businesses that supports the vision of a community where everyone has a safe and secure place to live, where everyone has access to healthy food, where the working poor have opportunities for training and advancement to family sustaining wages. Dan is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota with a BA in Psychology, and a Master's Degree in Public Affairs from The University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has 20 years of leadership with Goodwill organizations throughout the United States. And he's a long time fan of the Northern Michigan region. He moved here in 2016 with his family. Dan, thank you for joining us. We also have Tom Emling here with us today. Tom is a community volunteer at Our Neighbors' Garden which is hosted by Traverse City Central United Methodist Church. Tom is also a Goodwill Food Rescue Community Advisory Member in cooperation with Our Neighbors' Garden and in partnership with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Career-Tech Center Agriscience and Natural Resources 11th and 12th grade students with their Academic Greenhouse and Service Learning Program led by their teacher Brian Matchett. Until his recent retirement, Tom served for more than 30 years as Michigan State Universities in Northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula Community Partners Regional Director. Tom, thank you for joining us today. We also have Kris Thomas joining us. Kris has a degree in nuclear engineering from The University of Michigan and she spent her career working in the nuclear power field. Since moving from Washington, D.C. to Northwest Michigan, she served as a community volunteer in several organizations including Rotary in the Northwest Food Coalition. She currently serves on several boards and committees for the months in healthcare system. And if you were able to take a look at the pre-reads, the report in there, the 2014 Grand Traverse Area Food Summit Report, Kris was a key leader in that effort. Kris, we're very excited to have you here today. Thank you for joining us. We also have Sarah Eichberger. Sarah is a Public Health Nutritionist with MSU Extension where she provides statewide leadership in the area of developing and supporting the implementation of policy systems and environmental change interventions with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program. That's the SNAP-Ed program and The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. She's also serving in her sixth year as the Local Site Supervisor for FoodCorps. Sarah has a Bachelor's Degree in Dietetics from MSU and is a 2012 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She's also a 1998 graduate of Benzie Central High School. Sarah, thank you for joining us here today. We're happy to have you. We also have Josh Stoltz. Josh is the Executive Director of Grow Benzie. He has deep roots in Northwest Lower Michigan. He was born here in Traverse City and he spent the first 10 years growing up in Downtown Lake Anne and where he was playing basketball and riding his bike to swim at the Boat Launch. And his family moved near the fish hatchery where his dad taught him how to hunt and his mom taught him how to grow and store food. And he says his perpetual chore list was weeding the garden, feeding the chickens and stacking firewood. He graduated from Benzie Central and was involved in sports and extracurricular activities. And he graduated with honors and prepared for college at Central Michigan University. He graduated with a degree in broadcasting and cinematic arts, and he minored in marketing and advertising before he moved out West and he honed his knack for building relationships. In 2007, he married his soulmate and he moved to a home in Frankfurt and he continued his trajectory back home. He worked at the SEEDS After School Program for a while. And then in October of 2014, Josh was hired as Grow Benzie's first full-time Executive Director where he still continues a mission, fostering positive activity that increases access to healthful foods, jobs, life skills and providing each other and providing a space that nurtures these activities. Josh, thank you for joining us. And last but not least we have Megan McDermott joining us. Megan is the Director of Programs for Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. When Megan joined Groundwork, she signed on as the Food and Farming Team. And she now directs that day to day in addition to her duties as Program Director. Megan says she's constantly amazed by how uniquely collaborative this region is when it comes to supporting local farmers and helping all members of our community have access to fresh, local and healthy food. She says, she's looking forward to deepening many of those partnerships and showcasing our region as a model for other communities. One of the exciting trends she sees is the healthcare industry's growing awareness of the role that diet and access to fresh, minimally processed fruits and vegetables plays in community and individual health. Megan, thank you for being here. Well, we have a couple of questions for our panelists and we're not gonna be asking each panelist to answer every question, but we will be inviting them to respond to specific ones. So the first question is a question for Josh, Megan and Kris. And this question is, what was one aha or key takeaway moment you had during the summit series? What made you feel excited and inspired? Josh, I'm gonna invite you to share first please.
- Sure. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. And it was actually this last Session Five with Oran from the Fair Food Network. And if you haven't seen that video, make sure you check it out, it was inspiring because he was praising what this summit was accomplishing by looking at a systems approach. So by us coordinating and doing this collaboration and learning from each other and getting educated on how the food system works here in this region, he said that that's the first step to really dig down deep to be able to zoom out on this regional level and then zoom in closer to where each pantry is involved. And I just found that really inspiring and show that we were doing the right work.
- Thanks, Josh. Megan, what was your aha moment?
- It's so great to be here with everyone and there's been so much great content over the course of this summit. But I think the moment that has really stuck with me was my interview with Janae Moore in the second session for the summit. We talked about what are, what's, if there can possibly be a silver lining for this great tragedy that we have all now lived through. It's that, no, is no longer an acceptable answer, right? The things that we have been told as advocates, you just can't change, you just can't do that, there's a reason we do it, but we won't tell you, right? That, no, is no longer acceptable. We need to come together as a community and move forward together, understanding that we can do hard things. We can make big change, and it just takes all of us being passionate, committed to making that change. So, it's been wonderful.
- Great. Thank you, Megan. Kris, what was your aha moment or what excited you the most?
- Sorry about that. My screen just went blank. First, thank you so much for inviting me to join you today. When we performed the food security study several years ago we found that there were some founded foundational common elements that existed systems across the country that were in place to address food security. And four of the elements in these systems appear to be key to combating food insecurity or having food security council or food security plan a lead entity to address food insecurity and a meaningful data collection system. So, it was really exciting for me to see a couple of these elements touched upon during the sessions. Specifically, Dan Buron shared with us the creation of the COVID-19 Food Distribution Committee in our area comprised of many organizations that provide food assistance, who had never before worked together to discuss food security. When you talked about the committee and his presentation my first thought was how great it would be if this committee could evolve into becoming a food security council for our area Also Matt Unger and Daniel Beck from the Des Moines Area Religious Council shared how important meaningful data collection was to their 200 interfaith partners and how data played a role in every decision they made. To me taking action to establish a comprehensive data collection system for our area would be a game changer, not only in terms of advocacy, but in providing the necessary information we need to better meet the needs of our neighbors.
- Great. Thank you so much, Kris. Well, our next question is for Sarah, Tom, and Dan. Which questions, issues or challenges presented at the summit do you see as most persistent? And why does this matter? Why hasn't been solved already and what might change now? Sarah, what are your thoughts on that?
- Yeah. Good morning, everyone. Thanks again for having me in this final session of this series. So I think when it comes to the questions, issues or challenges, address that rise to the top as being the most persistent, three areas come to mind. So the first being a few weeks ago, we heard from Dr. Curver, she discussed concepts related to healthy food and she highlighted research that docking sell food pantry users overall have poor diet quality and higher prevalence. obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depressive symptoms when compared to adult non-pantry users. And so a question that comes to mind is, how can we as a community acknowledged this difference and consider? When it comes to food, often what's most helpful for individuals with diet-related chronic conditions is often also what's most helpful for everyone. It's a diet rich in nutrients and includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, legumes, and whole grains. And so how can these nutrient dense and culturally appropriate food choices before they're accessible and promoted throughout our entire community's emergency food system? The second is, how can we continue to reduce stigma associated with using or accessing a food pantry? Specifically is there an opportunity for food pantry volunteers or staff to explore assess and dismantle unconscious stereotypes and misperceptions of clients accessing food pantries? And lastly, I think there's a continued need for nutrition education and promotion to enhance and build health literacy. We know that families who use the emergency food system or are more likely exposed to nutrition education messaging from sources, such as the WIC or the Women Infant Children Program, SNAP Education in the community and also in their schools. So where possible, I'd say implicit or explicit nutrition messaging in food pantry should be consistent and reinforced the same message.
- Thank you, Sarah. Tom, what are your thoughts on those persistent challenges?
- Yep. Megan, thank you. And hello, everybody and happy to a preview Spring Day that I think we will all be enjoying. Really, yes, throughout the entire series, but the question of persistence and really may be most compelling came forward for me from our session three. And it was what we heard and what we were reminded is how essential it is to be listening to and be led by authentic voices, if you will. And I attribute that definition of authentic voices. Les Haggerman who helps to represent us and I get to hear from us on our monthly Food Rescue Advisory Meetings, Les is the person who often reminds us, are we listening and are we being led by authentic voices? And what he means by that, I think, and for all of us is, for those neighbors and families who are on the edge and struggling and really challenged by food insecurity in particular, do we have a way and a methodology and a framework for hearing those voices? The other person who had absolutely knocked it out of the park was Kris Thomas in her report in 2014 on food insecurity. For those who haven't read the report and don't know, Kris herself actually sat and listened person to person to almost 400 voices and families and representatives and food pantry leaders and so on and compiled the feedback from all of those individuals who are able to contribute to our understanding of, what is the food insecurity that we we are faced with? But really representing that and understanding on a parody that it was through the neighbors and the families. The other on that third session was that Erin Barrett who is the Regional Community Coordinator for the Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region, and that links to the larger set of data collection evidence-based assessment for my thrive, reminded us, and in fact I was reminded that it was Erin who talked about amplifying resident or family or neighbor voices. And, again, a leadership role health equity in her helping us to have the Innovation Region Information Report. If you haven't seen that report also like Kris Thomas's original 2014 report, it's a treasure trove of help and information and data that can guide us. So those were the couple of the compelling things that came forward for me that I think we've all seen through the entire six-part series.
- Thank you, Tom. And for those of you who may not have had a chance to review those reports Tom referenced, they are available on the Northwest Food Coalition website in the preread link. So feel free to take a look at those if you haven't yet had a chance to. Dan, what are your thoughts on the persistent issues and challenges facing the community?
- I thank you, Megan, and my fellow panelists for your thoughtful insight. It's always tough to go last after two really smart people in front of you. So, I will try to contribute to that conversation as best that I can. I felt like the summit really helped to provide kind of a larger context for the work we do with food insecurity. That we're all a part of an interconnected system. My hope is that what comes out of the summit is actually a sense of hope and what Megan reminded us that no is no longer an option. I love that. Then we have a great opportunity for a larger impact on our community. In that working together we can make a significant distance. I think the most persistent challenge will be, is inertia. Change is very difficult. For us though to be able to move forward with a meaningful impact on food insecurity, you need to consider doing the work that we do differently. I do believe that the summit has done a great job of bringing ideas to the forefront and asking tough questions and bring up new ideas. I think that momentum and coupled with the pandemic will create the sense of urgency that we need to propel us pass this inertia. As Kris mentioned, we are currently working with a group of organizations that references COVID-19 Distribution Group Committee. And there's a group of folks that are in some way, working with public and charity food distribution in our community. Now, initially this group really was formed just to deal with the immediate issue of COVID and food distribution. And so many things happening at one time. We just wanted to see what was happening and kind of coordinate a little bit and kind of look at how we leverage is, a program opportunities and funding opportunities. So our goal was just identify potential gaps and see how we might partner to fill them. As Kris mentioned, it's kind of interesting that and I would actually say surprising that prior to COVID that this group actually had never met together. So there are some good things to come out of the pandemic But as we kind of, hopefully, as a pandemic starts to recede and we can go to whatever the new sense of normality it's gonna look like, I am hopeful and optimistic that this group will continue to meet and continue to progress May during COVID into the future as a high level community level's strategy group. Actually, and something I didn't think about until Kris mentioned it is potentially a Food Security Council. It's already even just in this last 10 minutes we've already exchanged some, it's hard in developing some new ideas. So, progress has been made.
- Great. Thank you so much for that perspective, Dan. Our next question is for Kris and Tom. This question is, what's one thing we could do as a community that would make everything else easier? Kris, what are your thoughts on this?
- Thank you. As I shared earlier, one of the common elements hunger relief systems across the country possess is a lead entity to in charge of food security efforts for their service area. So I think one of the most impactful things we could do as a community that would make everything else easier would be to identify or establish lead entity for hunger relief in Northwest Michigan. There have been some wonderful partnerships and collaborative efforts that have taken place over the past few years such as the many different avenues that are now utilized to provide locally grown food for our neighbors in need. But I think that not having that lead entity looking at and focusing on the entire system and driving the work that needs to be done makes it more difficult than they needs to be.
- Great. Thank you, Kris. Tom, what are your thoughts on this question?
- A couple of that really fit together, I think for all of us. One is and as we were gonna be talking about as we go through the morning is all that's been gathering and is being gathered on the Northwest Michigan Regional Food Security Asset Map the community partners sort of resource guide that I think becomes, again, a very valuable resource for all of us. I think in that way it helps us to, again, pool our resources. I had seen recently a quote from Steve Wade who is at the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation. He mentioned that for us in the region, we have so many really positive examples about working together. And he said, well, working together and being partners and collaborating is just in the soil. I thought that was an interesting way of describing that. So, I think, again, I think part of what we're helping to put together the asset mapping for food security will help us and ease us into the, where do we go from here?
- Great. Thank you, Tom. I just an image of my psyllium connecting under this soil. Our next question is for Dan and Megan. This is, what should we stop doing? Dan, what should we stop doing?
- It's actually kind of working for Tom to say that. I think we need to stop going in alone. One of the things that's, it's obviously a lot easier to operate on our own as a separate entity or organization. There's no question it's easier. It's less coordination, less meetings, less Zoom meetings, less need for buy-in partnership, acting in coordination, partnership with others is difficult. It's time consuming and can be really frustrating, but also it can be amazingly beautiful. It's like the flywheel that Jim Collins talks about and it's good to great. Although that that image really never really kind of worked for me. But I do think of it as kind of like a wave that you catch while you're surfing or boogie boarding or whatever that all of a sudden you just can feel that power kind of take you along and just it's an amazing experience to catch one. But it is really difficult when you have true partnership beyond coordination, or as I like to reference it parallel play as they talked about with children, there's all sorts of amazing and stronger than we could have done alone. And that's exactly what it feels like when you catch a wave. And things happen that you never would have envisioned that could have happened at the time when the partnership started developing. There's no question it's a balancing act and it's no doubt it's complicated. We are separate organizations. So, how do you immerse ourselves in collaborative effort when we need to seed some of our authority without losing our sense of organizational identity? As we move forward we will need to get more comfortable with what they call a mutually transforming power. And she has referenced in a book I just started reading. I'll call it simple habits for complex times. The challenge is the notion of a command in control leadership and shifts a focus or a collaborative leadership style that requires paying attention to one another in vigilant and vulnerable ways and working together to create visions and find ways forward. We are working on complex issues and we will not, and cannot adequately adjust the challenges and opportunities alone. We'll need to learn to be vulnerable as individuals, organizations and funders, and together to find ways forward.
- Thank you, Dan. Megan, what do you think we should stop doing?
- Well, wow! I mean that we didn't get to rehearse with Dan and I feel like Dan just stole my whole spiel. So that's great. We're on the same page. But, yeah, I had looked at this question and sort of reframed it to say not necessarily what should be stopped doing, but what did we stop doing as a result of the pandemic and what should we continue? And that's very much what Dan just articulated, right? I think of that proverb, if you wanna go fast, go alone. If you wanna go far, go together. And that's what it feels like the pandemic stopped a lot of us in our tracks, and then we said, wow! Okay. We need to put our egos aside, be more vulnerable, not have a savior complex and say, hey, I'm the only one that can do this, right? If you've written a grant that tended to be the old structure, right? You need to say how you can solve this intractable problem on your own. But we know that that's not true. That's never true of the most complex and wicked problems that we face as a community and a society at large. We know that it takes multiple people, different perspectives, different organizations, different lived experiences to truly get at and tackle some of these really intractable societal issues like food security. So, I'm so excited that we've had the summit, we have this engaged group of folks really thinking about these issues and committed to serving this community. I think that the the takeaway is that we have to listen to one another, be vulnerable and continue the sort of mentality of humility and understanding that we have as a result of this. Again, the situation that we found ourselves in totally unexpectedly. I hope that whatever new normalcy we bring doesn't leave behind this idea of, you've been in your colleagues homes and your volunteers homes, you've seen their children and their pets and their community. And that's the thing that we can't forget as a result of, when we can see each other in person. And we're all looking forward to that day and being outside in a beautiful spring day. But it's something that I hope that we don't stop doing once we go back to whatever the new normal is.
- Great. Thank you, Megan. Our next question is for Sarah and Josh. And this question is, what should we go big on as a community? Sarah, what should we go big on?
- Well, I think when it comes to this idea of going big, what comes to mind is working to reduce the overall levels or numbers of people who identify as being food insecure or needing emergency food access. We heard from that in the last session from Warren Hester, and he touched on that idea as well. I think one way to contribute to that goal is to focus on addressing underlying inequities such as access to social and economic resources and improving community conditions. Acknowledging food security is economic security. Specifically we as a community can work towards increasing collective understanding and support for efforts like the Northwest Michigan Community Health Innovation Region or the NMCHIR that also Tom referenced in his comments. The most recent community health assessment, where the my five effort surface six priority areas for our community and with each of those areas are systems-level objectives and key indicators. So for example, two of the six include affordable housing and economic stability indicators that include increasing numbers of employers, paying a livable wage and reducing the percentage of income having to be spent on housing and transportation. So, how can we as a community get behind and contribute to meeting these collective objectives which aim to build a thriving region? It makes me also think of something almost recent MSU Extension Director has been known to say, in very much, in alignment of the prior comments. Nothing of significance ever happens alone.
- Thank you, Sarah. Josh, what should we go big on as a community?
- We need to identify our own fears in collaboration. And so I would listen to what Kris is saying about a broader network that can focus and then just kind of expound on what Dan said about our vulnerabilities because when it comes to collaboration, and I think a lot of you on this phone call might understand that if we go after a grant as for a program, maybe that's where our wages come from, and we get so wrapped up and chasing the dollars or the funding and then this collaboration that we forget why we're doing it. So I feel like if we have a, the answer would be, if we can have open conversations about our livelihood, why we're connected to our organizations, how we're connected through grants and through our collaboration, I feel like we can we can kind of give in to this coordinating idea with the systems approach that will make it a lot easier for us to transition longterm into a bigger solution for the region. But we're really gonna have to identify on a personal level and organizational level, why we're part of this coalition, why we're part of these greater networks and have those open conversations. So I think if we can face those fears and be vulnerable, like Dan said, that'll be the first step towards a bigger solution for the community.
- Great. Thank you, Josh. Our next question is for Tom, Megan and Dan and this question is, how do you wanna help? And what's one single, tangible next step you wanna take? Tom
- Thanks, Megan. Maybe, but at this point become pretty obvious, I'm personally, again, through and thanks to having the privilege of being on the advisory group with Food Rescue is that broad evidence-based authentic voices, data collection, data decision-making and all of that would be from almost a personal standpoint. The other I would mention real quickly is the wonderful opportunity for next generation of leaders and helpers in all that we're working on. And we have a great example coming out of the 12th and 11th graders who are part of the curriculum in Agriscience and Natural Resources at the Career-Tech Center. There are each year about 25 to 30 students. They partner with us through Food Rescue and the Community Garden that is located out on 3 Mile Road. They get it, those young people through not only their academic program and the greenhouse and they get things ready for the Community Garden, but as they participate and as we hear from them and as they engage, that is a whole new group that gets it. They, I think, really understand as Sarah and several of us have commented the stigma of, oh, you're going to the food pantry? They see the system, they see the connection and I think opportunities to continue to reach out and have those partnerships. In fact, that group is located, they can walk right across the courtyard over to Food Rescue world headquarters in the facility and they do that on a regular basis. Tailor more hosts, the students who see the big picture of much of what we're all talking about and working on. So I just would add that as something else, I think a next step.
- Thank you, Tom. Megan, how about you?
- Yeah. There are two things that I would love to see as next steps and ways that we can help, but also I think just pieces of this that every individual can pick up as a result of this summit. One is prioritizing local, again, if there's something we learned coming out of this pandemic, the communities that had a regional food system were stronger, they were better able to respond. National food system as entrenched as they are, are also deeply fragile and deeply reliant on a lot of things that failed during this pandemic that we thought would never fail, right? No one expected that you would have a run on toilet paper for months on end, right? No one would have anticipated that. And yet here we are. And that's a fairly trivial ingest example, but there were real intractable issues that came to light because of this pandemic, right? I sort of, again, I've said this jokingly because I'm a food systems professional, but food supply chain issues are never sexy. They're rarely in national headlines and yet that's what happened. So I hope that we don't forget, right? I hope that the people that have been compelled by the stories of farmers plowing under their crops and not able to sell because they couldn't afford the cost of labor to harvest that product, and they couldn't have the distribution channels to then get that product to families while food banks saw lines that were hours and hours long, right? I hope that that very visceral understanding of what national supply chains, which can sound really abstract and academic, what that looks like is exactly these problems that we've seen over the last 10, almost 12 months now. And the other piece is that policy change matters, right? We need to be engaged-people advocates for these programs because it really matters. Someone's sitting there saying, well, I think that, I've ticked my boxes and I've said this is what the eligibility should be and they're not thinking about the lived experience, the individual stories, the people involved in these programs. This is where we fall down, when we forget our humanity, when we think about policy as this abstract, impossible to impact policy, it's problematic. It's problematic from the ground up, right? It creates this connected politicians, it creates disengaged citizens and it just doesn't serve us. And so we need to think of policy as a way that we can advocate for on the ground change in our community. And there's so much that we can do in that space.
- Great. Thank you, Megan. Dan, what are your thoughts about next steps?
- Well, we've had some great things already talked about. I think mine would be kind of taking a little bit different tact on that. I think some of the best things that we can do right now was asking, just asking questions, continue to ask the questions just like we have in the summit. And asking different questions and focusing more on the, why are we doing what we were doing? And maybe less on what we actually are doing. That's what I think of without fully understanding why we are doing something that's hard to fully appreciate, whether what we're doing is actually having an impact. Also asking the question, why also pushes us to think more about how we fit into the larger system of food insecurity. Once we fully understand the, why? We can ask the sake, take a step out to ask ourselves as what we're doing helping us to accomplish this, why? How does it impact others who are working in the same space? What should we continue doing, stop doing or start doing? How do our actions support, hinder our, why? And how does a hinder help others in the same space? The difficulty is that people are food insecure right now today. We need to address it. There's no question, we have to address the issue. And this situation is really hard to take a step back and ask, why are they food insecure? I think Oran Hesterman, he's been referenced a couple of times already, did a great job in the last session of naming this dilemma. It is all about finding a balance between a charitable model and assistance change model Is inhumane to be callous to hunger. However, at the same time if all we do is meet the immediate need and not asking how are we going to reinvent our system for the future, we will continue to be in the cycle. As leaders we need to continue to create space for these discussions and recognize that we need to be to meet the immediate needs without losing sight of the larger food system challenges that create the conditions our food security continues in. And I wanna kinda, as you've mentioned that, Sarah mentioned today and I love this. Sarah mentioned, nothing of significance happens alone. 'Cause it's something we're gonna have to do together.
- Great. Thank you, Dan. We have one final question for our panelists and this question is going to be for Kris, Sarah and Josh. The question is, what did we not address at the summit that needs some more exploration and understanding? And what should we keep learning and growing together as we work on food security in our community? Kris, what are your thoughts on this?
- As I shared earlier, one of the common elements hunger relief systems across the country possess is a food security plan for their service area. So I think that developing a food security plan for our area is something that wasn't addressed that needs some consideration. A plan can take on many different forms, but to be having a plan that clearly defines things such as, who is in charge of food security for our area? Who are the partners? How are the partners going to work together? And what are the goals? Could be very impactful. I also wanted to share that one of the most important things that we all need to keep in mind is the people that are for whatever reason in a position they need food assistance are our neighbors. And very few people that reach out for food assistance want to be there. For most, their life situation that has led them to a food pantry or meal site for support is heartbreaking. Any one of us or a member of our family whether we think so or not, could be in a position one day where support is needed. It's happened in my family. So, I know it can happen in yours. We all need need and get support throughout our lives for various reasons. And that support comes in many different forms and without any sort of stigma. So as Sarah touched upon earlier, I think that working together to eliminate this stigma that exists for our neighbors seeking support to meet their nutritional needs is one of the most important things we could do moving forward.
- Thank you, Kris. Sarah, what are your thoughts on this question?
- Sure. So one area I might recommend for further exploration and understanding would be to highlight unique needs associated with food insecurity among women with children. Data shows that women are especially vulnerable to food insecurity and also household food insecurity rates for households with children headed by single mothers are particularly high. Additionally, there are some emerging area of research examining the intergenerational transmission of food insecurity. And so there's some considerable evidence that suggests that experiencing food insecurity as a child alters how individuals will behave as adults and feed their own children. This points to the potential need for a greater understanding for healthy food, healthy parent feeding practices or food practices. There's also a link between household food insecurity and breastfeeding practices, with some data suggesting food insecure women in households are less likely to follow the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding, which is the general recommendation for six months. And so in many cases, we know that low income women are not offered paid maternity leave, and thus, we turn to work soon after the birth of a child. Additionally employers may not fully support women who wish to express or pump breast milk at work and women may terminate breastfeeding as a result. So I think in summary there's an opportunity to further support the unique needs of mothers who are food insecure. These could include modifying operational features of a food pantry to support the ease of use by women with young children, educating employers and how best to support breastfeeding families, examining public policy that positions breastfeeding as a step towards reducing poverty, supporting healthy child development and an opportunity to ensure optimal food and nutrition during sensitive periods of a children's or child's early life.
- Great. Thank you, Sarah. Josh, what are your thoughts? What needs further exploration and understanding?
- Well, I feel like it sure is good to be alive and be a part of this moment in time and with the summit, because the questions shaped what was not addressed. I think everything was addressed that should be and I think it's really setting us up for what Kris and Sarah were talking about. Kris has a very good solution minded concept, and Sarah we needed to go through these last five sessions to get to this point. I think the only thing next is to really examine systems. For me studying systems for the last four years, it's easy to keep up with the conversation, but I bet there's a lot of folks on this call who hear the word systems and might get a little fogged out. So I feel like the next step for this, the summit is for us just to stay together and learn some of these tools and learn about systems. We hear about education. We can see the fumbles between virtual and in class talking about the education system. We can talk about housing, now we're talking about the food system. So, I feel like learning more about tools and learning about systems is gonna be, I think it's just part of the next step that's gonna be, make this successful. And I feel like us seeing this Kumu for Mary, this Kumu map is just a great opportunity for folks to maybe be like, wow! There's a lot more to this, but also just kind of ease us into the fact that there's a lot more ways that we can look at what we're doing and be successful. So I think a systems training and education, I think is the next step for all of us as a food system.
- Thank you, Josh. And thank you all of you panelists. We're so grateful for your participation in this summit for your thoughtful reflections, for your key takeaways, for your inspiring comments and for all of the energy that you put into your work every day and to being part of this system of practice together. So, we're grateful for you. And for those of you who are participating, our panelists will be joining us again at the end of the session. If you have questions for any of them, please put them in the Q&A. I can see one in there right now. And I'm gonna go ahead and invite our panelists to transition. And I'm gonna welcome both Mary and Val back who are going to share their key takeaways and also share the asset map outcomes.
- Thank you, Megan. I think to me it's just overwhelming that as each one of these panels have spoken, I think about the relationship we've all had with each other and the how that's continually evolving. We'd had a lot of surveys throughout our sessions. And what I've learned is that there's still a need to educate the public on what the needs are in relation to food, hunger and other poverty-related issues. I'm assure that system challenges are there and they will be part of that. All those questions hopefully will be addressed and we can continue to work on them. We live in an area filled with people who truly do want to make a difference in seeing that people are fed. It also showed me that our viewers also want to know about the food insecurity and want to do something about it too. Hunger is a multifaceted issue as we've talked about, that's more than providing food. There are many studies and programs out there that talk about lessening hunger and we've used many of them in our coalition and partnered with others to continue to look at new ideas and better ways to help deliver that food. We have resources that other parts of the state and country don't have. And that's why I think that you're to the news media you see that other places appear to be in a lot worse shape than what we are here. We have seen this when COVID started our partners stepped up and gathered funds and leaders step forward and form committees to make quick informed decisions in acquiring that food that was so hard to get. We looked at the economics and we bought food from local farmers to bring fresh fruits and veggies to our pantries and our meals sites. High schools offer meals for not only students, but also for the whole family. We have wonderful partners like Food Rescue and Groundwork, MSU Extension, 10 Cents A Meal, great farmer's markets and hundreds of volunteers who provide that drive-up food pickup, all during many kinds of weather and all the extra work that it involves. And people are happy to do that. Our focus has and we're going to continue to not just fill the belly with food, but to give food, good food and educate them about what healthy foods are. The foods offered at our pantries and meal sites continue to look at more helpful choices and the individual special dietary needs, which has now become a very big issue with so many people. I'm overwhelmed that we're serving as an example to other places in other States of how to start, manage and assist groups will see the value of a coalition, a mission-minded people who want to help the whole person. We are happy to share our experiences and to give whatever assistance we can. I've learned that as far as we have come in the last 27 years, we are still growing and learning and we're evolving. COVID just speeded up our process. And we have learned a lot to the tough times. You'll be giving an opportunity that I alluded to before about to get on our moving train, to use your talents and gifts in helping our neighbors here and sharing information with others. We need to keep up this momentum. COVID won't always be here and we'll continue to build on what we've learned during this past year and with this summit. We thank you for joining us and being part of this summit. And I'll let Mary have the floor now. Thank you, Mary.
- Sure, Val, thanks. You really reflect exactly where the coalition is at. And thanks for that historical perspective. I reflected, it was great to listen to all the panelists. Oh my gosh, how overwhelming all that information and how inspiring. I reflected myself on some takeaways from this summit series. I really deepened my understanding of the number and varied resources our community provides. Through the stories we learned how unique every person's situation is. And we can see how all these different programs and resources evolved. We heard earlier in the summit session about the disabled person, the elderly person trying to navigate food using a Walker and the needs of a teenager, really a child themselves. And then as Sarah indicated, the children in a single parent family or even a family who's recently lost a job or suffered a severe health crisis. It's clear the nutrition needs and the way people consume food are very different. Even Kathy O'Connor from Step Up she talked about the teenagers. They need food on the go and quick to prep. So it's clear we all experience health and diet in a unique way so largely dependent on our circumstances. The summit heightened the challenge of the coalition to provide a variety of that healthful food concept. I appreciated learning about that concept and Val you mentioned it, because it speaks to a variety of food that comprise the diet and that are offered at our pantries and meal sites and in other programs. That was a significant takeaway for me. And another takeaway was about connections. Everybody's talking about the connections. I'll give you a little story. I have not mentioned earlier that my work with the coalition is on a volunteer basis because I'm just passionate about food and the opportunity to assist others to achieve better health. But I have another job with Munson Healthcare and I've been able to reach out and connect with Jean Kerver and Kori Woodruff who presented in earlier sessions, who are affiliated with Munson and their information about what makes up the most advantageous diet really set the bar high relative to the statistical information they also presented about where the American diet, what that diet typically includes. And I mentioned the connections too because it is the story, the coalition's efforts to provide fresh, healthy local produce. Coincided with Jean's work on diet as it relates to recently discharged patients from the hospital through, and she was able to provide a piece of a grant to provide the initial funding for Christina Barkel from Groundwork who does all the purchasing for our coalition's farm to Neighbor Program when that was just getting started. So you see that interconnectedness and having that Farm to Neighbor Program up and running with COVID hit, when the pandemic hit. And as we heard the failure of our national system, we already had the game plan for ramping up the local relief fund that Groundwork created to assist our local farmers. And we've been able to get a lot of fresh produce to our pantries and out to the people who need it. Those relationships and connections are so fruitful. And Val you mentioned all of our partners and the valuable work I do. I also think about as referenced earlier the work of NMCHIR, Michigan State University Extension and United Way of Northwest Michigan, they assist people with education, there's room for more opportunity there we're hearing, but also with navigating the complexity of the system to locate health. Seth Johnson of United Way started our summit with providing a lot of information on who was in food insecure in our region. And since that first session we've been discussing how we provide that help and what form that helped takes. That system is widespread and we'll see it in our asset map. Coming through the pandemic we heard about the significant community strength, Val you mentioned that, behind all that help that going to people in the TCAPS and their meals, the restaurants who stepped up, donations from all over. How wonderful these resources have been in our community. And we did talk about the use of data. We heard from our friends in Des Moines, Iowa, communication and sharing of information will be critical to deepening the connectivity, our system as others have indicated and looking to possible improvements and efficiencies to better serve the unique needs. I just can't say enough about MSU. They've been mentioned. We've gotten a few emails after sessions from people with MSU connections as well as some of the presenters who aren't in a partner with our data, the data in the asset map. So more to come on that. I'm hoping people move on from the summit charged with excitement and the possibility of change. Josh, I completely agree with your aha moment regarding, or in Hesterman's presentation. His call to work to eliminate the cause of food insecurity in tandem with the Band-Aid efforts completely resonated with me, and Dan you spoke to that too. We fully acknowledged the Band-Aid, right? The coalition helps the people who need help now, but there's another challenge of how we can work cooperatively to address the issue at its root cause The coalition mission is to empower member food programs by coordinating and creating resources to achieve regional food security. We need to start locally. And I'm excited to make that happen. So let's turn to that asset map. A few of us have mentioned it and then I've spoken about it. And so, Nick, I'm gonna invite you also to help out here. I wanna preface our deep dive into saying something about that map, what it is and what it's not. It's not final, right? It's meant to be a living document. And we've just gotten information in within the past week, so we've not even spent a lot of time with it. So this is very preliminary. It's where we're at right now as we draw our summit to a close. For instance I noticed some resources appear more than once. That means several people from that organization contributed and they might even, each have a different role with that organization. And we don't know how all this information might play out and be used in the future yet. So, as you explore it yourself because we are going to provide you the link so you can get in here and take a look at it too. If you see that there are resources missing, share the link to the Input Form with others you know whose voice might be missing. There's great potential for this. And we've already heard from, again, MSU and others who want to tap into this and connect this with a broader potentially even state-based effort to address the needs here. So what the map is, it's crazy right? Nick, I hope you call it up. It takes a bit of time to understand and to really take it all in so you can click around on it, Nick Beadleston, he's with Good Impacts, He helped create this map in a program called Kumu. Rotary Charities provided the funding to make this happen. And Nick set up a great presentation display. When you click that link, that'll give you some background how we classified resources. And so what this also is, oh, my gosh, it's a statement of, wow! Look at this network. So this first slide I can see Nick's highlighted the Food Coalition, right? This is the summit we're in. And you don't see any people in here because the coalition is tapped into different providers and suppliers and distributors. That's our role, right? We don't actually give out food to people, we are a coalition of others. But while if you take the next step and start zooming out, Nick, maybe you could kinda, oh, the huge one. Okay. So, wow! This is zooming out way big. These are about the 100 responses we got from all of you. Thank you. Thank you. And perhaps you can click a little further in, Nick, so people can see. Can you zoom in there? There's the, is that the Food Coalition? All right. And then maybe zoom in. Can you do that? So you can see, yep, even further, maybe get rid of that white area on there on the screen. Great
- I think there's definitely highlights, Mary. The fact that folks need to spend some time working with this resource to definitely.
- Absolutely. Absolutely. But you can see, okay, there's Goodwill, right? To the upper right of us. That's one of our partners and their role and Step Up Northern Michigan. Yep, there's Goodwill and all the things they do. And then Step Up Northern Michigan. I already mentioned that. The pantry that serves our teenagers and a member of the Food Coalition and they distribute food. And so as you just move around and as you can get in this yourselves, you'll be able to find yourself there's a search button at the top so you can easily find where you are, Nick, yep, right up there. I see Josh is here. Could you look up, Grow Benzie? Yep, you just put it in. Click on it and the map will take you right to where Grow Benzie is. You can see that highlighted and the role they play. So how you interpret this map is the connections are there to all the check the boxes that were on the input forms. So if you check the box that you have a connection as a local distributor, there it goes, you are connected to that local distributed classification. And we can certainly answer some questions on this. As we said, it's very preliminary, but there's a database behind this that has all the answers to the questions that people completed. And I think it's a great start. We're gonna look to continue to feed the data in there. I get, again, I said, go ahead and share the input form. And we will explore this and use it as a platform to take the next steps that we're trying to identify as the most important and most impactful in our community.
- I think it's worth briefly underscoring, again, Mary that like you've said, this is a draft and it does not fully represent all of the excellent ways in which our regional organizations are serving those in need. So we know this is imperfect, there are gaps and it needs to be improved, both for those organizations that are currently represented here, certainly for those organizations that aren't represented. And then probably most notably there really aren't any connections between organizations yet. It's really just tying the folks who filled out the survey back to sort of those broad areas of service. So we could certainly envision, eventually having connections between organizations with detail about how those organizations are working together.
- Okay. So as a followup to this summit, we will send out the link. I think there was maybe a question or an notation, I saw pop up. Where's that link? And I don't know if Megan you're putting in the chat box now, but for sure it will be coming out with the follow-up material from this session. So, Megan, I'll turn it back over to you. I think we've got time for our Q&A.
- Great. Thank you, Mary. Thank you, Nick, for that great start on our resource map. We will be sharing the link to that map which is going to be an ongoing data collection effort in the chat feature. So if you haven't had a chance yet to provide information about resources you're aware of, please feel free to do that after today's session and share that link with others in your network who you think can also share information. I wanna reinvite our panelists, all of our panelists and speakers back. And as they're coming back, I do wanna introduce the poll to you. This is a participant poll. We wanna know a little bit more about how you wanna stay involved as this process moves forward. This is a multiple choice question. Choose how you'd like to be involved. We'll take about 30 seconds here to complete the poll. Let us know which role you might wanna play. Feel free to take about 15 more seconds here to complete the poll, and then I'll share the results with you. About half of you voted so far. All right. I'm gonna go ahead and end the poll and share the results with you here. It looks like we had a 33% of you have indicated you'd like to volunteer. 37% have indicated an interest in advocacy. We've got 24% indicating an interest in continuing to provide direct food assistance to those who are experiencing food insecurity. Another 20% have said you wanna help fill the gap in the system by providing info to the asset map. 39% say you wanna participate in collaborative data collection and analysis to inform decision-making. 40% wanna be involved in collaborative decision-making across entities. 15% of you said you'd like to provide funding. 26% said you'd like to provide other resources. And 70% have said you want to continue to stay informed about what's going on with the coalition. So thank you all for your interest. We're excited to move forward together with you. So, it looks like panelists and speakers, we have three questions now in our chat. I'm going to read them in the order they were shared. And if I think there's one that's best suited to you, I might direct it to you personally, otherwise I'll just share it with the full group. So, the first question we received is from Kennard Weaver. And the question is how are K-12 community college and university students served by the existing network? Sarah, as a Member of the University System, I'm gonna pose this question to you first, and then if others have a response to share they can do that as well.
- Sure. Perhaps the participant also maybe wants to clarify when they say network, are they referring to the coalition as a network? I guess what comes to mind initially is there has been some changes and policy changes in terms of SNAP eligibility when it comes to college students. And I can not, I'm not going to attempt to rattle off the final rule on that, but there has been some federal policy changes that allow greater eligibility and access to SNAP benefits among that demographic. So that's something that definitely has been put forward to respond to the growing number of young adults who are experiencing food insecurity. Regarding K through 12, I think Kathy O'Connor from a few several panels back really highlighted the importance of making food accessible to teenage neighbors in the community who are facing challenges with unstable housing and food insecurity, and what sorts of resources are our local high schools have created to respond to some of those emerging needs specifically developing food pantries in school and connecting them to other resources. I'm gonna pause there if anyone else prefers to weigh in on that question.
- Any other thoughts?
- Val, there's a, and I'm, I should know it, I'm embarrassed, I don't, but there's a pantry at NMC too. Val you're muted.
- Yeah. Sounds too they've been a member for a couple of years now and they have a unique way of supplying food. They do it online from a list of the foods that they have and then that food is packed up and the neighbor or the student will just pick it up there. And so it's so easy for students to do that. And they serve about 100 people a month at that pantry.
- And I can, oh, sorry, go ahead, Mary.
- I was just gonna add, there's also, for the younger kids, there's the Blessings in a Backpack program, Sarah, that, so food goes home on the weekend for some kids. I know that's at the elementary school level in town.
- And I can just add, I think one thing that, I think we've covered over the course of this, we had Jodi Jocks from TCAPS in that first session and we've talked about TCAPS a number of times, but people may not realize is that school districts, particularly in rural communities are often the region's largest food service entity. Meaning, they're the community's largest restaurant. Where else do you have the possibility of serving 10,000 individuals than through the TCAPS network? Right? And they don't have 100% lunch participation. But the piece of that that's really important though is that children could be receiving up to 50% of their calories from school. So when we talk about the school breakfast program or the school lunch program and the policy changes that impact those families, those are the things that we have to start thinking of, if that's 50% of a child's food, it really matters if tomato paste counts as a vegetable, right? Those are the sorts of anecdotal things you hear and sort of are a sound bite that people forget about, but that has an impact on children's lives and often the most vulnerable children. If you're getting 50% of your calories and you're getting packaged highly processed products because it was more convenient, there's labor issues there, there's the school issue. But I think the other piece that goes under the radar is community college students in particular. But there was a study two years ago I believe, from actually three now, it's 2021, but in 2018 there was a study that showed approximately 40% of college students experience food security at some point over their two to four year experience in school. And that's really powerful. I know that was part of the inspiration for the NMC Pantry and they've done incredible things. So, again, it's learning from each other and understanding how these systems are connected. I mean, TCAPS sitting on that, what hasn't been called a COVID Council could be a Food Security Council is really important because people tend to forget about schools and their role in feeding families in need. And that's a huge, we saw that with COVID, right? Kids aren't going to school, they aren't getting 50% of their calories. Suddenly the family needs to provide that. That parent's still working if the pantry is closed. These are huge gaps in our system that we're just, people not necessarily talking to each other and all serving in the same space. So, one more reason that this group coming together is great.
- Great, thank you all for those responses. And thank you, Kennard for submitting the question. Our next.
- Maybe I'll just say, so one of our participants, Maureen, has indicated and you did it in the chat to the panelists, but you could also add this to the general chat. Me and our Christian neighbors has been providing a food and hygiene pantry through BiaB in the high school. I'm just not familiar with that. So, maybe somebody else, BiaB.
- Great. Another good.
- I think that's Blessings in a Backpack, right?
- Oh, okay. I get it. Sorry.
- Those acronyms. I know. And Megan, you touched on that in your presentation I think in session two, all the acronyms we need to remember.
- Another thing. At least one of our big pantries does what they call a Boost Bag, that when the kids are off school, when their parents come to the pantry for food they're giving an extra amount of food because those kids are now home eating them out of house and home too. But they provide extra food. So they've been able to do that. And that's probably not done in a lot of other areas with the pantry systems. So, great.
- I think this comes back to, I think a couple of I've already talked about, we definitely notice that with COVID when the schools were able to provide to all the kids there did all through the summer that had a huge impact on distribution of food throughout the entire system. So, it is kind of amazing how many players are in this arena and there's not a lot of coordination in that. And part of it is because they're completely separate silos systems. It's gonna take a lot to really think about, how do we do a better job of fully integrating the different systems? And in reality, if the school system was allowed to do it all through the summer and we actually used that as one of the main distribution center, it would really lessen the need actually for other distribution systems. There may even be a more efficient way to do it, or when they put more money on the SNAP benefits, that had a huge impact. If you look at that more in terms of giving people the freedom, the dignity to make purchases on their own would have a profile. And so I think Megan mentioned, a couple other people did too. It's this policy issues really will have a big impact on how the rest of the system reacts, but they have to be done in concert. And I think that's what the challenge is we tend to do. And I don't think it's just the way it is. It's not unique to the food system, but it's hard to do because there's a lot of moving pieces, but I think the more that we can kind of have these conversations and keep it going will help. 'Cause I think the providers can help on the policy side and we haven't been as involved in the policy side.
- Great. Thank you. I'm gonna ask the next question here. This one's from an anonymous attendee, but the question is, at what point does learning turn into action? Is there a point where the knowledge gained will become a sustainable solution to help solve food-related issues? A lot of you talked about next steps and also systems work just to riff on some of the things you've already shared to follow up on that. I'm curious if there are obstacles you think we can overcome, what resources are required to get there? Or what do you think is needed to keep the momentum going that you all spoke about?
- Megan, just a thought about that in relation to this. We wrapped up our earlier discussion about, and Josh saying systems, and we've been talking about, and Oran Hesterman's challenge to us that what we do currently isn't sustainable over the long-term. I'm just, again, struck by the power and the value of the innovation assessment, health innovations assessment, my thrive with that connection and what we learned from Des Moines and there framework for information gathering and decision making. But the other element that just holds I think can becomes very persuasive is for our local elected leaders at the County level and through Lansing in our State Legislature is those stories that data becomes, and you've been at the township level, becomes I think, incredibly helpful and persuasive to help on the public policy side of decision making and priority setting and eligibility kinds of questions and so forth and so on. So I think in terms of what we've learned and what we we know is possible, that's one element that really takes us from the learning stage to the action stage.
- Okay. And, I'm sorry.
- Okay, go ahead, Dan. Tom I thought that was great. And I also see someone in the Q&A looking for perhaps a summary, a short and concise statement as a follow-up to this summit series so that we actually record these great ideas in a concise articulated statement that could be an education piece for our government, our elected officials. And I think that might be a good suggestion coming out of this. Thanks to Groundwork and MSU we've been able to get a print out of everything we've said. So not only can you view it, but we could actually read it. So I think there's opportunity to excerpt that and really add that to our data bank of resources. Dan, were you gonna say something?
- No, I was just going to go back on what I always say. So, I don't think I need to add any more to that. I think the big thing is alignment. I think Josh actually kind of hit the nail on the head. It's gonna be uncomfortable for us to to align because it means keeping up with something. I think we'll gain something, but the gain may come down the line, but immediately we'll probably have to give up a little bit of authority and maybe even adjusting the allocation of financial resources among organizations which is really difficult to do. And I think they're really two big blocks, I don't think it's all on the organization. Is a funder also has to be willing to give up some authority and recognize that the providers, people closest to the pupil receiving the support, know what they're doing. And then the second part of that is our boards. One of the challenges is having, is a boards being more comfortable with the lack of control themselves. So it's not just the organization themselves, but the board has to recognize and be comfortable with the idea that there were many interdependent with other organizations and our success is dependent on other people's success. And that's not comfortable 'cause you can't can't control that. You can't put it on a, it's not as easy to put on a strategic plan and measure outcomes every month or every quarter. So they'll get a comfort level with taking a more independent approach it's gonna have to come, not just from our organizations, but the people who fund, including individual contributors. Again, who do you contribute to them? You contribute to a collaborative effort or are we contributing to an individual effort? And how's individual effort intersect with the collaborative efforts? And it gets a little bit messy, but it's worth getting a little dirty to figure it out.
- I'll also add, as I'm thinking about all the leaders that are here on the panel today, we need to make space in order for people to contribute. So, one challenge is time, right? Everybody talked about this is something hard, it's time to roll up your sleeves, but it's also a tremendous commitment of time to make this happen. And Dan, you talked about how hard it is to get everybody in the same room or on the same Zoom call, but that we need to make a commitment to that time and understand who the voices are. Every dot on that asset map represents a resource and many of those dots have paid individuals working there, but untold number of volunteers who are working at all of our pantries and meals sites. Again, the power of the community, but really as leaders understanding how to tap resources and pull them together and then make space for the conversations that need to have. I think that will be critical.
- I completely agree with everything that's been said thus far. And the one thing that I just wanted to call out explicitly here is that I think there's an assumption that there's a binary between learning and action. And that at some point you stop learning and you just start acting based on what you've learned. And the reality is that these things are happening simultaneously, right? We'd like to say, we're lifelong learners. There's always something new that I can learn from any one of these panelists. I bet any member of this audience would have something to contribute to these conversations. And so that's something where we need to stop thinking of, I've learned enough and now I can act, right? We need to be able to be vulnerable, acknowledge what we don't know and continue to learn and grow together as a collective because there's no point do we attain enough information where now we're an expert and now we can act, right? We're all learning together. And we're all building this system in this community together. And so we need to stop thinking of a binary that's holding us back. I think of it as simultaneous. I think again, to come back to this concept of vulnerability, we need to say, hey, I don't know about that, can you tell me a little bit more about that program? I didn't know you were doing that, can we talk about it? And to sort of take our defenses down a little and not bristle at, you don't know that I'm doing that? What do you mean? I've been doing this for 20 years, right? And say, let's just talk about it and seek to understand, not to posture and put ourselves in a position of authority constantly because we're all learning together. And that's the best way to act as if we acknowledge we are constantly learning and we're constantly adapting.
- Thank you so much. We have another question here. And this is a question from Sharon Lehmer, and the question is, what do you think is the appropriate geographical size for an effective food system coalition? Says, I'm in Manistee County. Is it better to keep the coalition coverage area nearby? What do you think panelists? Anyone have a thought on size related to, it sounds like coalition membership, affiliation and service?
- Val you might have some thoughts on, I'll just throw out some things. It's sort of, I think depends on how you're utilizing resources. So, as the coalition that we're in, our Northwest Food Coalition has grown, it used to be that Food Rescue would rescue food and drop it off at every site. And the coalition has grown to the point where we just can't, they just can't have routes everywhere. So, some members of the coalition have to come in to their warehouse and pick up food. So, I think it's large enough to encompass the organizations that wanna get together and can serve and provide mutual benefit. Val you can speak to why people are in the coalition, but it started to share information. And so as long as you have that effectiveness to share it would be sufficient, but always room to grow. Because as Megan said, there's continual learning and continual sharing.
- One, either advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it, COVID has allowed us to make use of a Zoom which means we can accommodate more people from outlying areas. However, there is a certain saturation point with resources within a given territory, too. We would like to be able to expand the amount of people that we're serving, but it's truly it is not practical. And then the negative side of that is for those people who don't have the resources that's available in the Grand Traverse Area, meaning six counties, it's hard to talk about the same programs when it might not be available to them in their counties. So, having the coalitions in different areas I think is more beneficial where you find out what resources are available in your given area. But it's like Kris and Sarah and Dan talked about, you have to continually be learning more new ways to do things. You need to look at the big picture. And I think all of us know that we are just putting a band-aid on the food situation because there's much bigger issues than just a lack of food. And that's certainly in our area, housing. We'll pick up the paper and they look at interviews and they're in someone it took them a year to find a house to buy because there was just either not available or certainly not in their price range. So, think about that for people who are renters or experiencing homelessness or near homelessness and all it takes is to lose a job or to have your hours cut and your whole income and all the things that support is gone. So, we almost have to be kind of regional. They have to be able to address those problems. So, I think there is a limit on how large the coalition here could be. It certainly doesn't mean that we cannot have other people from outside that area be part of what we're doing and learning and then bringing back to their area. I think that's what's needed.
- Just a real quick comment about, and just really quick, Michigan State University, Pioneer Land Grant University we do County Speak. We, we speak 83 counties. Our extension educators, Sarah here for us. We have extension educators across the state. In the case of Manistee, thanks to our Regional Director Jennifer Berkey, who oversees and leads, Manistee is one of those counties that she and the extension educators serve. So we have connecting points there. I'm thinking as a young person, I spent time in Alcona County, if Alcona County was interested in lessons learned and what we've tried to put together in our region of the 10 counties. Again, that's the innovative region. Again, I think we would invite and welcome anyone in everywhere if we can share. And as Val said, we do now have, that we're pretty good with a tool of distance communication, distance coordination and so on. So I think we wouldn't limit that at all. We know there is a saturation point, but on the other hand I think we have nothing, and our asset map is gonna really highlight that as well. So enough set on that, but just to point out that in the case of Bana Steve, you're already in, so.
- Yeah. Thank you for those perspectives. I think we have time for one more question and it's maybe just if one person responds. Well, they'll cover it. But the question's from Collin Martin And it's, in general do you pregnant and breastfeeding moms get extra food at our regional pantries?
- Val you're shaking your head, no
- I have not heard of that. If they do, it would just be a policy within a particular pantry, probably one of the bigger ones. So, I think it's worth each one asking about other pantries and we can find out, but to my knowledge the answer would be no. And I think it's because of work.
- To me when I ran the St. Patrick's Pantry, if someone showed up and expressed a particular need we'd certainly pull food to address that need just like people with specific dietary requirements. Val you mentioned that before, say a diabetic or people who need low sodium. And pre-COVID many of our pantries could customize, talking about the unique experience I mentioned earlier. People have unique needs. You could really customize, some of that customization I think has diminished because of the pandemic and having to kind of pre-bag or limit that individual connection there. But I think moving forward, certainly whatever resources pantries have, I think are extended to the extent possible that they can make that unique connection.
- Great. Well, thank you. And thank you to those who submitted questions to our panelists and speakers today. And thank you all of you, again, for your wisdom and for participating in the session. I'm going to turn things over to Mary here for some closing remarks.
- Sure. Thanks. I will try and wrap this up in one minute. I'm so struck by the breadth and depth of our speakers and panelists and the sharing of stories and data. We learned about those experiencing foods insecurity and the resources in our community to assist them. We've talked about how we've combined values and information to make decisions. Even that impact our local farm economy, community gardens we spoke about and our advocacy efforts. We are so grateful to all the summit presenters, their perspective, their energy and their dedication to our communities is really inspiring. We have a thank you slide, if you can call it up, with our speakers' much appreciation, as well as to our planning committee members and our summit partners. We've mentioned Val Stone, MSUE, Groundwork and Food Rescue. It's been a tremendous team effort. And we look forward to the continuation of that collaboration even with our new partners in an effort to assist our region. Megan has included some links in the chat box and we hope this series has been meaningful and fulfilling for you. We have more work to do. We've heard about that in order to improve the wellbeing of our communities. So, as we take these next steps, please do the two things we're inviting you to do. We wanna ask you to complete the survey regarding next steps. The link is in the chat box. It's also coming your pre-read material, your follow-up. And then also, if you could share your feedback on the summit experience, it's a separate link there because we wanna know what worked well for you and ideas how to improve the summit experience. This is our first, but perhaps not our last summit. So finally, we wanna thank you for your time and energy you've committed to participating and making the contribution to our region's health and security. We're grateful for your interest in community food security and we're looking forward to staying connected. Much appreciation. Thanks.
Session Six Panelists
Director of Treasury and Tax
Mary works in Munson Healthcare in the Treasury department. She ran the food pantry for St. Patrick’s Catholic Church for 18 years as a volunteer leader. She has served as the chair of the Operating Committee of the Northwest Food Coalition since March of 2018. Mary also participated on the systems team that created the Food Security System Map. She has a B. A. in business administration from University of Notre Dame and a Masters of Public Health Administration from the University of Chicago.
Food Coalition Coordinator, Food Rescue Coordinator
Goodwill Industries of Northwest Michigan
Bachelor of Social Work, Central Michigan University
Val works for Goodwill in the Food Rescue program. She coordinates the Northwest Food Coalition monthly member meetings and the gathering of pantry and meal site statistics on people served. She organizes collaborative activities for members such as food drives. She has experience with many food programs serving Northwest Michigan such as Commodity Foods. Val served as a Community Service Coordinator for 27 years at the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency (NMCAA). During her time at NMCAA, Val helped found the Northwest Food Coalition in 1994. While coordinating the Food Coalition, Val also helped start Food Rescue in 2009.
She is a Traverse City native and lives there with her husband and partner in crime. She loves art and floral design.
Megan has spent her career dedicated to community growth and development, land and water conservation and restoration, food and farming systems, housing, transportation, and access to nature and outdoor recreation. Pairing her professional experience in community and organizational development with a personal zeal for building trust and openness in decision-making, Megan founded Parallel Solutions in 2014. http://www.parallelmi.com
She is a 1999 graduate of Miami University (Ohio) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography and a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies/Western College Program. She earned a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from Spring Arbor University, and pursued additional training in mediation, mindfulness, and workplace diversity.
Goodwill Northern Michigan
Dan Buron is the executive director of Goodwill Northern Michigan, a non-profit social enterprise that operates 9 retail and e-commerce businesses that supports the vision of a community:
- Where everyone has a safe and secure place to live.
- Where everyone has access to healthy food.
- Where the working poor have opportunities for training and advancement to family-sustaining wages.
A graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota with a BA in Psychology and a master’s degree in Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dan has 20 years of leadership experience with Goodwill organizations throughout the United Sates. Long a fan of the Northern Michigan region, Dan moved here with his wife and two daughters in 2016. In 2019, Dan completed the Ironman 70.3 Traverse City Triathlon, raising money for Food Rescue as part of the Charity Challenge.
Community Advisory Member
Goodwill Food Rescue
Tom Emling is a community volunteer at Our Neighbors’ Garden, hosted by Traverse City’s Central United Methodist Church.
Tom is also a Goodwill Food Rescue community advisory member, in cooperation with Our Neighbors’ Garden, and in partnership with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Career-Tech Center Agriscience and Natural Resources’ 11th and 12 grade students academic, greenhouse, and service-learning program, lead by their teacher Brian Matchett.
Until his recent retirement, Tom served for more than 30 years as Michigan State University’s Northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula – Community Partners regional director.
Kris has a degree in nuclear engineering from The University of Michigan and spent her career working in the nuclear power field. Since moving from Washington D.C. to Northwest Michigan, she has served as a community volunteer for several organizations, including Rotary and the Northwest Food Coalition. She currently serves on several boards and committees for the Munson Healthcare System.
Michigan State University Extension
Sarah Eichberger, MPH, RDN, is a public health nutritionist at MSU Extension where she provides statewide leadership in the area of developing and supporting implementation of policy, systems, and environmental change interventions within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) program and the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Within her role, Ms. Eichberger is serving in her 6th year as a local site supervisor for FoodCorps.
Sarah has a Bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Michigan State University and is a 2012 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
Sarah is a 1998 graduate of Benzie Central High School.
Josh has deep roots in Northwest Lower Michigan; born in Traverse City, he spent his first ten years growing up in downtown Lake Ann, playing basketball and riding bikes to swim at the boat launch. His family moved near the fish hatchery where his Dad taught him how to hunt, his Ma taught him how to grow and store food, and his perpetual chore list was weeding the garden, feeding the chickens, and stacking firewood. When he graduated from Benzie Central he was involved with every sport and extra-curricular activity possible, while graduating with honors and preparing for college at Central Michigan University. He graduated with his degree in Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts and minored in both Marketing and Advertising before moving out West where he honed his knack for building relationships.
In 2007, he married his soulmate, purchased a home in Frankfort, and continued his trajectory back home. Working with SEEDS After School program provided him an opportunity to work with youth, rekindle and spark professional relationships in the community, and meld his prior experience in the private sector with the goals of a non-profit organization. In October of 2014, Josh was hired as Grow Benzie’s first full-time Executive Director, where he still continues a mission fostering positive activity that increases access to healthful foods, jobs, life skills, and each other and providing a space that nurtures this activity.
Food and Farming Program Director
Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities
Meghan’s work is in regional food systems. She has contributed to Groundworks food and farming focus area since 2015, and has led this work as Program Director since 2016. Meghan sits on many regional advisory boards and has strong facilitation skills that she uses to problem solve and create positive change in sustainable food systems. Meghan began her work in Northern Michigan as a Food Corps Service Member working in area schools in 2013.
Facilitator/ Technical Support
District Director – District 3
Michigan State University Extension
Jennifer serves as the District Three Director and provides administrative oversight for the six county MSU Extension offices in Northwest Lower Michigan including; Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Kalkaska and Manistee Counties. She has worked for MSU Extension for 22 years and prior to this assignment she worked as an extension educator providing supervision for SNAP-Ed nutrition instructors as well as taught food safety education for the community. She has been active in multiple leadership positions within her community; PTO president at two schools as well as served as President of MEAFCS (Michigan Extension Association of Family and Consumer Science Educators). Jennifer has been an active member of the Northwest Food Coalition by linking the nutrition and food safety resources to the pantry members.
She lives in Traverse City with her two daughters and her golden doodle. Jennifer enjoys participating in her daughter’s school and sporting events as well as hiking on our beautiful northern Michigan trails or boating on the bay.