As National Farm to School month comes to a close, I wanted to share new information about MI MarketMaker (www.mimarketmaker.msu.edu), which can help schools and other institutional markets connect with Michigan farmers and food suppliers. See below and attached for more information about how schools, hospitals and colleges can use this online venue to link to local food!
Farm to Institution Specialist
CS Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems
Michigan State University
Contact: Tom Kalchik
Farm to School and MI MarketMaker work to improve children’s school menus
East Lansing, MI (October 31, 2011) - Every child deserves access to nutritious food. With more than 30 million children eating school cafeteria meals daily, it is imperative that we promote healthy, balanced eating habits to help prevent obesity and other health-related disorders in our youth.
Help celebrate the first National Farm to School Month this October by using MI MarketMaker to find local producers of fresh fruits and vegetables. “The Michigan State University Product Center brought MarketMaker into Michigan because it is a powerful tool to help buyers and producers connect with each other,” says Tom Kalchik, Associate Director of the MSU Product Center. Use the Search function of MI MarketMaker to find growers of specific crops in a local area, or more general fruit, vegetable, meat, grain or other types of products.
“Farm to school programs are growing strong in Michigan,” said Colleen Matts, Farm to Institution Specialist with the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at MSU. “Schools seek a wider variety of local produce for more of the school year as they begin and expand farm to school programs. MI MarketMaker is an opportunity to connect the dots between farmers and school nutrition and food service directors to get local food to our school children.” Along with Florida, Michigan is slated to participate in a USDA Fresh Produce Pilot program starting in 2012 which aims to bring more fresh produce to schools.
Kalchik encourages all school food buyers and farmers interested in selling to local schools to register on MI MarketMaker. The process is easy. Just go to www.mimarketmaker.msu.edu and click on the Register button in the Register Your Business panel. School food buyers need to register by selecting “Buyer” from the dropdown menu, then “Institutional – Education” in the Buyer Type tab. Then complete the rest of the profile, including the information in the Geographic Area tab and Vendor Protocols tab. Remember, the more detail, the more searchable you are and the easier you are to find.
Producers interested in taking advantage of the buy local trend for the school lunch program should also register on MI MarketMaker. If you are already registered user, simply log into your MarketMaker profile and find the “Methods of Sale” area under the type of products you offer. By checking the “Farm to School” box, buyers are able to search for your business as they seek out healthy food purchases for local educational institutions. If you are not registered, go to www.mimarketmaker.msu.edu and click on the Register button in the Register Your Business panel. Select “Farmer” from the dropdown list. Complete your business profile for the crops you produce and the way you produce them (look for the tabs at the top of the profile page for Dairy, Fruits and Nuts, Meat, Vegetables, etc. so you have a complete profile of your farm). In the “Methods of Sales” section, click on the “Farm to School” box. Complete the rest of profile information, remembering that the more detail you provide, the easier it will be for a buyer to find you.
National Farm to School month in October and the USDA pilot program in Michigan for farm to school purchases provide great opportunities to improve the diets of school children and increase economic development in Michigan. MI MarketMaker can help school lunch buyers and growers make these programs successful and bring more fresh, local produce to Michigan children.
For more information about MI MarketMaker, visit www.mimarketmaker.msu.edu or contact Tom Kalchik at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-432-8752. For more information about Michigan Farm to School, visit www.mifarmtoschool.msu.edu.