BY JENEE GREGOR
The Food Summit brought people from all over the Washtenaw County region to connect about Local Food Movement. The Morris Lawrence building was a buzz with conversations on President’s Day, Feb. 15, when the Food Summit took place. Nearly 300 people came to support the local food system and learn about how to better engage with the community.
Several sponsors presented their solutions and their assistance to the participants. Whole Foods, Zingermans, The People’s Food Co-op, Grubbable and others had booths to educate and showcase their abilities to further the food movement.
Brenda Reau, the senior associate director for the Michigan State Product Center, came to share the advice being offered to the slow food community. “Slow food” is defined as, “food that is produced or prepared in accordance with local culinary traditions, typically using high-quality locally sourced ingredients.”
MSPD offers free business counseling, help with feasibility studies and doing market research, as well as helping with food product nutrition labeling.
“We help between 40 and 80 businesses a year,” Reau said.
One of their success stories was about local Saline Easy Artisan Bread Company that has grown into a commercial success and carried in 500-600 stores, Reau added.
The Youth Track, the children’s educational program within the Food Summit, had 25 kids come to their section of the event.
“So far, so good,” said Erica Shaver, one of the leaders and planners of this year’s event.
Shaver shared that they did a food mapping activity with oatmeal and blueberries. They demonstrated where the food came from, where the blueberries and oats were grown to where they were distributed, and how far it had traveled to get to them at the table.
Two of the girls in the room were doing a food poetry activity with the other Youth Track leader, Nathan Wells, smelling and tasting different herbs or seasonings and describing them with a blindfold on.
“It feels like salt, but smells like pepper. It’s earthy,” said a girl participating in the activity.
Deb Lentz, one of the owners of Tantre Farm and the Washtenaw County Food Hub has seen the growth of the slow food movement in her own farm.
“In 2001, we started the CSA, and in 2015 we were at 350 members,” Lentz said.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and allows people to buy into farms for produce, or in some cases, provide labor for produce from the farm.
Slow Food Huron Valley is putting on the 4th Annual CSA Fair allowing people to come and meet the farmers to find their “perfect food match” on March 20 at Cultivate Tap House in downtown Ypsilanti.
Cultivate Tap House was awarded a Local Food Victory for operating a volunteer-run establishment that contributes to making local food more available to the community. Other organizations were honored with their victories including: University of Michigan Sustainable Food organization, the Social Farmer Listserv, the Grange, the Farm at St. Joe’s, and the Mother Loaf of Breads a CSB, Community Sustained Bakery.
Stephanie Stauffer, an instructor at WCC and the moderator for the Key-note panel from Tillian Farm was very happy with the success of this event, and the new participants. “Culturally appropriate food access is the key phrase for me right now,” Stauffer said.
She added that this event brought to light a lot of the issues of food sourcing.
She spoke about the urban agricultural movement in Detroit and was informing Detroit Chef, George Azar of all the local food resources available to him.
The Detroit local food event, Food For Change, nears taking place on March 10-11 at the College for Creative Studies.