Michigan Good Food Fund launches to grow food future

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit entrepreneur Callie Bradford turned to family, friends and her own bank account when she needed $25,000 to purchase a new juicer for her business Go! Smoothies.

But a new statewide fund — created to drive economic development in food production, distribution, processing and retail in under-served areas — is the exact kind of support Bradford can now turn to when she is ready to increase production at her downtown cold-pressed juice shop.

Announced Monday in Detroit's Eastern Market, the Michigan Good Food Fund is a public-private partnership loan and grant fund that provides financing and business assistance to "farm to fork" businesses to increase access to healthy food, improve the health of Michigan residents and drive economic development and job creation.

The fund was created by a coalition of food sector, nonprofit, higher education, government, and philanthropic partners, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Fair Food Network, the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and Capital Impact Partners.

Fund investors include Kellogg and the Max and Marjorie Fisher Foundation.

The fund started with a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury. Oran Hesterman, president and CEO of the Fair Food Network, said the goal is to raise between $30-$50 million for the statewide program.

Michigan is the second most diverse state in terms of food and agriculture, Hesterman said, and is a $100 billion industry.

"We have the opportunity to have more food grown in the state, processed in the state, more food for families and more food dollars spent here in Michigan," he said.

Local food entrepreneurs who would benefit from the Michigan Good Food Fund include everyone from producers to consumers, including full-service grocers, agricultural centers, and small processors.

Ian Wiesner, a senior loan officer with Capital Impact Partners, said his nonprofit will administer loans of $250,000 and up, while local organizations will handle smaller loans.

The type of help ranges from financial planning, equipment sizing, workshops and webinars.

Linda Jo Doctor, a Kellogg program officer in food and community, said the time is now for the Michigan Good Food Fund, because despite having a $100 billion food economy, Michigan still has 1.8 million people who don't have access to healthy food.

"This is an equation we want to shift," Doctor said. "This fund has extraordinary potential to feed people, create jobs and help entrepreneurs."

Bradford, who operates her cold-pressed juice company with Monique Dooley, said she plans to apply to the fund soon for help with workforce development to hire additional workers.

The old juicing system produced 700 bottles a month, she said. The new juicing system, which will be set up at Eastern Market, will produce 500 bottles a day.

"As we continue to expand we will go to them to get another juicer and hire more people," she said.

For information, go to www.michiganfood.org.