The Northwest Food Coalition (NFC), an alliance of more than 70 food pantries, meal sites and baby pantries in northern lower Michigan, is announcing its first Food Security Summit—a free, six-part virtual information and engagement series. With each session addressing a different specific component of a complex issue, the series aims to create space for anyone wanting to learn about needs and resources, and explore a shared understanding and a common vision to address regional food insecurity and hunger. Food security, or the ability at all times to have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, was an issue prior to the pandemic, and the need is rapidly growing. Attendees can choose to attend any or all of the six sessions of the series for free.

“Food insecurity isn’t just measured by whether people have enough food. People require enough of a variety of foods to meet dietary recommendations,” says Mary Clulo, chairperson of the operating committee for the NFC. “Meeting these requirements will make us a more healthy community.”

The Food Security Summit will strive to create additional public awareness of food insecurity and surrounding issues through sharing data and stories of care, resiliency and change, and to highlight it as a whole-community issue, not an individual one. Sessions may also have ‘calls to action’ to engage participants and the community to spread knowledge from the sessions throughout the greater community and build additional awareness. Food insecurity has no specific demographic and can be difficult to spot. Food security is connected to and often impacted by challenges related to job security, income levels, access to transportation and the costs of health care and child care.

“Food insecurity can be hidden when neighbors make difficult choices when paying for housing, medical bills and food, and when they can’t choose to eat healthy foods,” says Clulo.

Summit organizers invite community members to attend who may be experiencing food insecurity, supporting a family member or neighbor experiencing food insecurity, working at a food pantry or at an agency providing food assistance, a community member wanting to learn and support people experiencing food insecurity, working at an organization that support persons or a community that is experiencing food insecurity, or someone simply curious about learning more about food and the future of the community and region.

Interested attendees can find more information and register here.

The Food Security Summit is presented by the Northwest Food Coalition in collaboration with Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan, Michigan State University Extension, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and with financial support from Rotary Charities of Traverse City. The Northwest Food Coalition’s mission is to empower member food programs by coordinating and creating resources to achieve regional food security.