Food System Stakeholders


1 in 7 people in Michigan don’t have enough food to eati

We asked people working throughout Michigan’s food system: why?


A food system can be thought of as the network of groups and individuals that shapes the path food takes from the field to our forks. Food systems encompass a diverse range of people interacting on local, regional, national and global scales. Illustrations of the food system capture the different scales, relationships, and values driving the system we have, as well as the systems people envision: 

Image source

Image source

Image source

Image source

Still others envision food systems centered around human rights, indigenous knowledge, justice, and social systems:

Chilton & Rose (2009) describe the right to food and the right to be free from hunger as stemming from Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States is the only nation besides Australia that refuses to embrace the right to food. A human rights framework centers the need to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights and implies a government obligation to uphold a state of well-being among individuals [ii].

Whyte (2015) discusses the interference of settler-industrial states to Indigenous peoples capacity to self-determine, which has often involved disrupting Indigenous food systems. He also examines the intersecting struggles of Indigenous and African American communities to cultivate their adaptive collective capacities (through their work to cultivate and tend, produce, distribute, and consume their own foods) as a means of building a collective’s quality of life– cultural integrity, freedom, food security, and public health [iii]. 

Alkon & Agyeman (2011) bring together voices at the nexus of food, agriculture and inequality, locating instances of food injustice in the wider political, economic, and cultural systems that produce both environmental degradation and racial and economic inequality, as well as offering examples of resistance and sustainable alternatives [iv]. 

Figueroa (2015) through her work with the Chicago-based Healthy Food Hub, grounds everyday food practices, social relationships, and the historical processes that shape them, as a means to de-center food from food-related research, and to instead consider how everyday food practices allow for the re-articulation of social relationships that provide pathways not only to food sovereignty, but also suggest alternatives to life under capitalism [v].

The FAIM Project & Michigan’s Food System

The FAIM project is grounded in an environmental justice framework and works to recognize the way power operates within our current food system. Therefore we choose to focus our study regionally, and on Michigan’s food system in particular, given: the state’s agricultural abundance; work being done to support small farmers and regionalize the food system; and the ways in which communities across the state — often facing the hidden environmental, social, and economic costs of our current system — are seeking spaces and platforms to transparently and collectively create a more equitable system. 

The FAIM research team conducted interviews with 133 key stakeholders in the Michigan food system between 2013 and 2014. An initial list of influential or uniquely positioned individuals within organizations, businesses, governmental departments, and community-based agencies across multiple sectors was developed by project investigators, and continually expanded over the course of the project. 

We broadly categorized the food system stakeholders we spoke with into the following groups:

–   Local Food Production & Support  (farmers, urban farmers, extension educators, farmers’ market managers)

–   Food Access & Health (public health department directors, nutrition educators, human services program managers)

–   Food Infrastructure & Supply Chain (farm to institution program managers, food service directors, grocery store owners)

    Emergency Food (food bank and food pantry managers, soup kitchen coordinators)

–    Food Policy (county commissioners, food policy council members, mayors, economic development department directors)

–    Food and Social Justice (non-profit executive directors, activists)

–    Food Systems Research (professors, researchers)


As we finish analyzing the stories shared with us, we will post our findings here– stay tuned! 


[i] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (March 14, 2018) Michigan Food Assistance Program Fact Sheet Link:

[ii] Chilton M, & Rose D. (2009). A Rights-Based Approach to Food Insecurity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health99(7), 1203–1211. Link:

[iii] Whyte K (2015) Indigenous food systems, environmental justice, and settler-industrial states. Global Food, Global Justice: Essays on Eating under Globalization. Link:

[iv] Alkon AH & Agyeman J, eds (2011) Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Link:

[v] Figueroa M (2015) Food Sovereignty in Everyday Life: Toward a People-centered Approach to Food Systems, Globalizations, 12:4, 498-512, DOI: 10.1080/14747731.2015.1005966 Link: