The Co-op Corner: Co-op Active in Local Food Initiatives, Marquette Food Co-op

local food initiatives, farm  to school fundraising, Marquette Food Co-op, UP holistic business, UP wellness publication

A fundraiser participant shows off an assortment of local products featured in the Farm to School Fundraising program.

The Marquette Food Co-op (MFC) is well known in the community as an ardent supporter of local agriculture and continues to be a local food systems innovator. In addition to being one of the largest retailers of food produced in the U.P., the MFC is an active participant in programming and community development around food systems. Over the years, the MFC has collaborated with partners to develop the NMU Hoop House, a farm tool lending program, area farmers market programs, and food safety programs for farmers. Read on to learn more about a few of our current projects–some of which you can participate in!

Farm to School Fundraising

First begun in 2015, Farm to School Fundraising is a program that sources products made right here in the Upper Peninsula. Schools raise money by selling high quality items from small, local producers. Product selection may change according to the season, but often include honey, handmade soaps, jams, maple syrup, seasonal or root crop vegetable mixes, even plant starts. All products are grown, harvested, or created right here in the U.P.

Farm to School Fundraising keeps money in the local economy, can be connected to school garden work and food education, and is a meaningful fundraiser with interesting products for students to sell. In 2022, the program raised $15,103.77 for schools throughout the central U.P.

UPFE Cold Storage Grant Program

The MFC is the fiduciary for the U.P. Food Exchange (UPFE), a collaborative local food workgroup. In partnership with Upper Peninsula Food as Medicine Team, UPFE has put together a Cold Storage Grant Program which awards up to $14,000 to local farms to expand their cold storage facilities. The grant includes technical assistance and consultation with the Upper Peninsula Produce Safety Technician. Last year nine farms were awarded grants, and three more farms will be awarded funding in late March of 2023.

Generously funded by the Superior Health Foundation, the goal of the grant is to address food insecurity in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Farm debt is a huge problem nationally, with farming income insufficient to pay back loans necessary for land and up-to-date equipment. Easing this debt load with an infrastructure grant helps farmers to expand their production and thus provide more products to their community. UPFE and MFC have led the Cold Storage Grant program and hope to offer more opportunities in the future.

U.P. Food Exchange Food Summit

UPFE’s mission is to broaden collaboration among communities for a mutually supportive food system in the Upper Peninsula. Essential to collaboration is networking and sharing opportunities for community members. After a hiatus due to the pandemic, UPFE is excited to announce the return of the U.P. Food Summit. The Summit is an opportunity to come together around food systems work. Attendees will learn about exciting local food projects and how these could be enhanced or replicated in other locations, provide feedback on projects and what their community needs and, of course, celebrate and honor the efforts of everyone who contributes to a vibrant local food system.

The Summit is a great way to learn more about local food projects from the MFC and many other community organizations. All are welcome to the event, which will be held at the Northern Center at Northern Michigan University on Monday, March 27 from 10 a.m.-4.p.m. Learn more about the summit at

Article sponsored by the Marquette Food Co-op.

Excerpted from the Spring 2023 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2023, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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