July 02, 2019PORT HURON — Residents and stakeholders in St. Clair and Lapeer counties are invited to a special July 9 event, 'A Time to Discuss Our Food System,' hosted by Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) and the Thumb Food Policy Council.
Food producers, consumers, agencies and institutions and community leaders will converge on the Don Dodge Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to talk about everything related to producing food and ensuring that food gets to everyone who needs it.
"We want to listen to the community and discuss what food-related needs there are plus identify local assets too. We want to identify gaps, where things can be fixed. Part of that process could include proposing new plans and proposing policy to lawmakers," said Joe Bixler, MSUE educator.
The Thumb Food Policy Council's members include farmers, grocery retail representatives and non-profit and food bank organizations from Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Tuscola and Huron counties.
Extension and the council hosted a similar summit in Cass City that was intended to address those needs in the northern portion of the region while the July 9 event is focused on the southern end.
Having worked in the Thumb for MSU Extension for the last 10 years, Bixler said he's seen common food security issues shared among the five counties and, as can be expected, some unique challenges that are unique within that region.
"This is a free event and food, both breakfast and lunch, is included," he noted.
While the event is open to a broad range of stakeholders, Bixler said organizers have targeted their invitations to farmers from small and medium-sized farms, public officials and those in the social services.
"We want to hear from producers on what needs they have to introduce their locally-grown products into the food system," Bixler said.
"We also want decision makers to be aware of the work we're doing."
Bixler said it's likely their discussions will also include issues at the consumer level like food label literacy and debunking food safety myths spread on social media.
The morning session is dedicated to discussions specific to St. Clair and Lapeer counties. The afternoon session will include a panel discussion and livestream production of the MSU AgBio Research team's 'Our Table' initiative.
Bixler said the food policy council's next step will be to create action steps for projects they'd like to tackle in the next 18 to 36 months. One need the council has already identified is to collect data on food pantries and create a comprehensive directory of those organizations and groups helping provide food in their communities.
To register by the July 5 deadline, visit https://events.anr.msu.edu/foodsummitstclair or call 810-989-6309.
Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.