Eaton County Takes on Local Food Planning with MIFFS Facilitation Services
posted on June 2, 2014 12:14pm
As part of a new service, MIFFS has been out and about across the state (and country!) facilitating meetings and strategic planning sessions with other food and farming groups. With a 16-year history of working in food systems and sustainable agriculture, MIFFS has launched a Facilitation Team to share some of its expertise with others, working in teams to guide meetings, create strategic plans, design projects, and much more.
Among projects the MIFFS Facilitation Team has already assisted include an Eaton Good Food initiative project to gather public input for their forthcoming County Food Plan. Eaton Good Food was recently awarded a Community Reinvestment Fund grant to conduct a series of focus groups to better understand the attitudes, feelings, and motivations of the general public toward food and food access in Eaton County. To help oversee and guide that process, Eaton County hired the MIFFS Facilitation Team to conduct a series of focus groups with underserved populations.
“What Eaton County is doing is relatively unique,” said Rory Neuner, a MIFFS Facilitation Team member that led several of the focus groups. “It’s really exciting to have a county government engaging in food systems planning.”
The County is looking at this planning from a different perspective, thinking about urban and rural planning, economic development, transportation and food security.
A total of six focus groups were conducted in Eaton County communities, which included 70 individuals across five target populations: K-12 students, college students, veterans, adults over 65 years of age, and adults eligible for public assistance. The Eaton Good Food planning team targeted these groups with the goal of making sure that underserved populations have opportunity to get involved in the planning process at all levels of government.
By having the MIFFS Facilitation Team come in, the focus groups and stakeholders were able to listen, process and participate in a more meaningful way, Neuner said. Having a facilitator, especially with focus groups of diverse constituents, takes the load off and lets the organizers focus on the bigger picture, instead of on the logistics of conducting a meeting.
After the dialogue, Neuner wrote a detailed report outlining the core themes and overarching issues identified across the six groups to help Eaton County take the next steps toward better local food access for its residents. Read the report here.