Local Food Economy

Author: Meredith Freeman

Battle Creek, Michigan maps out its local food economy and celebrates second Good Food Summit March 29

Battle Creek, Michigan, has joined the ranks of other communities nationwide in profiling the community’s food system from farm to plate. Both the report and an executive summary are now available online.

A community food assessment is both an action and an outcome. It describes the community-driven approach looking at who in a given region’s population has access to what kinds of food and how they get it. The outcome is a roadmap of what’s been learned that supports community members as they work together to increase healthy food access.

The 2013 assessment grew out of conversations dating back to 2010 between the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Fair Food Network, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, and close to 40 local organizations under the umbrella of Good Food Battle Creek. Fair Food Network has provided ongoing support to the work through mini-grants, partner collaboration, and leadership development.

This is just the beginning for local advocates. Good Food Battle Creek is hosting its second Good Food Summit on Saturday, March 29 from 9:30am-1:00pm. Detroit food activist Malik Yakini will provide the keynote address.

We’ll provide an event recap and Q&A with Malik Yakini next month. Until then, here are some highlights from the 2013 Battle Creek Community Food Assessment:

  • People buy food at a variety of locations, including grocery stores (39), party stores (19), dollar stores (16), and gas stations (15). Calhoun County has fewer grocery stores per 10,000 residents and more gas-station/convenience stores compared to the rest of the state.
  • Full service restaurants beat out fast food in eating-out dollars spent by residents, 52% to 48%.
  • Known as “Cereal City” and home to Kellogg Company Headquarters, food manufacturing remains a major contributor to the community’s economy. Of the 12 major metropolitan areas in Michigan, Battle Creek ranks 7th in the number of food manufacturing establishments.
  • Soybeans and corn lead local agricultural production. Nearly 50% of the county’s 453,760 acres is being farmed. While Michigan has the greatest diversity of agricultural products of any state save California, soybeans (69,339), corn (65,608), and wheat (12,605) are the top crops grown in and around Calhoun County. Vegetables and orchards make up fewer than 550 acres.
  • Aging farmers. The average age of farmers in Calhoun County is 57.5 years, a bit older than the Michigan average of 56.3 years and just behind the national average of under 60. Forty-six percent of area farmers indicated that farming was their principal occupation, compared to 44% percent of total Michigan farmers.

Dig deeper. You can read the executive summary of the assessment here or download the entire 2013 Battle Creek Community Food Assessment from the Files page of  Good Food Battle Creek’s Facebook page. Look for 13GFBC CFA.pdf.