Food & Farming

Food Access

We help connect emergency food providers, like food pantries and meal sites, to nutritionally rich, locally grown produce from our region, which improves the physical and mental well-being of food pantry clients. Our food access work also provides farm family income to local growers: We play a key role in arranging contracts between pantries and farms, which guarantee sales and fair prices for purchased produce.


Groundwork partners with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan (HDNWM) on a Building Healthy Communities program to make healthier food choices easier to make and ultimately impact our communities by reducing the incidence of chronic disease. Learn more about the program here.


Groundwork launched the Local Food Relief Fund in April 2020 in response to COVID-19 impacts on working families and farms. The fund assists food pantries and other emergency food providers in purchasing products from farmers in eight counties of Northwest Lower Michigan. Learn more about the fund here.


Frequently Asked Questions

What does food access mean?

Food Access describes the work that helps connect food insecure people to resources and environments that provide food. The US Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life."

What is Groundwork’s role in food access?

Groundwork initiatives support emergency food providers, like pantries and meal sites, in the creation of healthier food environments by improving the nutritional quality of food available and by facilitating partnerships and contracts between farmers and food pantries. which increases the amount of fresh, healthy and local food available in those environments. We also work toward a more food secure region through our partnership with the Northwest Food Coalition, a network of about 70 food pantries, meal sites and baby pantries in northwest lower Michigan.

Participating in Building Healthy Communities and launching the Local Food Relief Fund have been two of our key initiatives.

What Challenges do food pantries face in providing healthy, nutritious food?

Emergency food providers often operate with only a tiny amount of resources and limited control over what they are able to offer at their pantries and meal sites. Many sites are staffed entirely by volunteers, have no operating budget or money to purchase food, and rely entirely on donations from the community and/or rescued food from the grocery store. The large amount of inexpensive, but poor quality food in our industrial food system means that food pantries can often only afford to provide enough calories to feed people, let alone provide nutritious or locally grown food, which is often much more expensive and difficult to store than processed food. As pantries and meal sites seek to elevate the freshness and nutrient quality of their offerings, Groundwork helps connect them to the resources and support that can help them provide healthy, nutritious food to their clients.

How can I learn more about your work in food access?

Please contact Groundwork's Food Equity Specialist, Christina Barkel.



Guide to Food Assistance and Eating Local

A 17-page booklet that offers information on everything from finding food pantries and meal sites close to you to tips for growing your own garden, preserving food, shopping at farmers' markets, and tapping into financial assistance for purchasing food.


A convenient list of website links to food assistance resources in the counties of northwest lower Michigan. SEE Page 5.


A handbook for bringing healthy, Michigan-grown foods into your home school or food pantry, this booklet offers shopping, preparation, and cooking tips for a highlighted vegetable, fruit, or bean each month. The booklet includes dozens of links to additional resources for planning, cooking, and idea-generating!


This booklet is a must-have ​for food pantry managers working to elevate the health quality of the food that families are taking home. Inside, you'll find tips and ideas for sourcing, storing, and incorporating more fresh produce in your food pantry—and ways to get customers to choose fresh food, cook it, and consume it.

"The Food Coalition’s partnership with Groundwork has tremendous opportunity for both the local farmers and our neighbors in need. Groundwork’s expertise and resources offer to provide a bridge between our local demand and our local products to protect and improve the health of our region."

— Mary E. Clulo, Operating Committee Chair, Northwest Food Coalition


Food Access News