Partner Organization News: Promoting Racial Equity at the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) works across local, national, and international spheres to support just, sustainable, and regionally integrated food systems. Since its founding in 2012, the Center for Regional Food Systems has employed a combination of applied research and outreach to advance collaborative, community partnerships on projects ranging from farm to table to food system policy. CRFS recognizes the power that cross-disciplinary cooperation and collective impact have in tackling complex social issues. Accordingly, the Center has positioned itself as a “backbone organization,” fostering a network of diverse perspectives in the pursuit of a common agenda: championing good, healthy, and affordable food.  

CRFS is especially interested in furthering racial equality in food systems. Historically, institutions of higher learning have perpetuated systemic racism and systems of privilege; therefore, CRFS has emphasized racial equality across all their initiatives and projects. To that end, the Center produces the Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism in the United States, which is now in its seventh edition with an upcoming eighth edition on the horizon. By providing current peer-reviewed and gray literature material on the intersectionality between race and food systems, this annotated bibliography is an important resource for students, non-profit advocates, and food policy councils alike. CRFS is cognizant that food systems have been predominantly white spaces, and that racism within these systems is ongoing and systemic. One way CRFS facilitates change is through the Racial Equity in the Food System Workgroup. This group, composed of community food practitioners and cooperative extension professionals from across the nation, holds webinars and trainings to promote racial equity. Through the annotated bibliography, as well as the workgroup, CRFS aims to uplift marginalized voices, encourage self-reflection, and create an empathetic dialogue surrounding issues of race in the food system.

CRFS will host the upcoming virtual 2020 Michigan Good Food Virtual Summit. Since 2010, this summit has drawn people from across Michigan and the country to network, reflect, and share their work in promoting fair and sustainable food. Sessions will focus on a broad range of critical food systems issues, including  COVID-19 and Food System Resilience; Farm and Food Business Viability; and Health Equity in the Food System to name a few. The virtual sessions kick off on October 12 and continue into November. More information on the summit and a registration link can be found here: https://www.canr.msu.edu/michiganfood/summit/index.  

The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems is truly the product of collaboration; their work emphasizes a broad range of perspectives from across the diverse landscape of voices and places involved in regional food systems. By fostering networks of partnership, providing research and information, and supporting interdisciplinary cooperation, the CRFS promotes more just, sustainable, and regionally-centered food systems. Visit the Center for Regional Food Systems to learn more about their current and upcoming projects and initiatives. 

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Photo: CRFS staff at the apple crunch event.