Michigan Food Hub Network holds first-ever U.P. meeting

People from across the state gathered in Marquette to learn how to improve distribution of locally-grown foods in Michigan.

The Michigan Food Hub Network meets four times a year. Its meeting Friday morning at NMU was the first one it’s ever held in the Upper Peninsula. A food hub is a business or nonprofit group that sources and distributes locally-grown foods.

“We have food hubs from around the state — organizations, nonprofits, universities, agencies that help support the work of building the capacity of these food hub businesses,” Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems senior associate director Rich Pirog said.

The U.P. Food Exchange and the Marquette Food Co-Op hosted the meeting. U.P. food experts shared advice on what they’re doing to spread local foods across the region’s large land area.

“We’re developing an online marketplace where institutional purchasers — say it might be a university, a hospital, a school or maybe a restaurant — wants to purchase food from local farms we have an online marketplace that is making that very easy,” Marquette Food Co–Op education and outreach director Natasha Lantz said.

“The most innovative is the fact that central, east and west U.P. are now starting to collaborate even more and coordinate on projects and keep each other posted, which means all of them will build together faster,” Marty Gerencer, principal of Norton Shores-based food consulting business Morse Marketing Connections, said.

After the conference, the guests from around the state received a tour of the Marquette Food Co-Op’s new home, which opened in May. The co–op is the central distribution site for the U.P. Food Hub.