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Mich African American farmers team up with SEMPA and CANSTRONG to deliver 18K meals a day

SUMPTER TOWNSHIP – CanStrong, The South Eastern Michigan Producer’s Association (SEMPA), and Michigan’s African American Farmers are joining the Michigan Farm to School Program in a cooperative initiative to grow, pick, process, cook, and deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to area school children with a 48 hour turn-around time.

The initiative partners one of Michigan’s leading providers of healthy school lunches, CanStrong Food Service Management, exclusively with local African American farmers through the SEMPA cooperative to supply the produce for 18,000 healthy meals a day to children in Michigan schools.

“Our goal”, said CanStrong President Johnny Cannon, “has always been to work as a team to provide Michigan children with fun, healthy, fresh, and affordable lunches at school. This program provides an opportunity to bring students the freshest, healthiest produce, while supporting Michigan’s African American Farmers and boosting our local economy and agricultural initiatives.”

The SEMPA cooperative, based In Sumpter Township near Belleville, was created to support underserved farmers in meeting the needs of underserved communities and urban markets, especially where there is limited food access. One area of the organization’s focus has been on Michigan’s African American Farmers.

“I saw the need for African American Farmers,” said SEMPA General Manager and Co-Founding Member Cary Junior. “There are many African American Farmers in rural Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw Counties growing beautiful fruits and vegetables to feed the local population. They have the ability to grow much more produce, but are unable to access larger markets to sell their product. Partnering with CanStrong on the Michigan Farm to School Program is a perfect win-win model for SEMPA’s goal to connect African American farmers with new markets while connecting the Detroit area, especially growing children, with fresh locally grown food.”

Shakara Taylor, underserved farmer development specialist at the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, said “SEMPA aims to counteract land loss of black farmers by promoting farm preservation through cooperative production, certification, aggregation, and marketing. If black producers can strengthen their capacity and maximize their profit through a cooperative farming model, farm production can increase thus addressing one of the most threatening obstacles of regional food systems: supply.”

SEMPA’s participation in the Farm to School initiative runs deeper than simply supplying healthy nutritious meals.

“Not only will we provide local produce to these schools, but we plan to provide educational tools to the children, utilizing our member’s expertise, so they can have a better understanding of fresh produce, and it’s nutritional and economic importance,” said Junior.

Currently SEMPA cooperative farmers are turning the ground on approximately 30 acres of land in Sumpter Township to prepare for the spring growing season, with plans to expand another 100 acres this season.




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