Strategic connections with local nonprofits in District 9

Terry McLean, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension community food systems educator in District 9, has a strategic connection with the edible flint network. Edible flint is a local nonprofit organization formed in 2009 that is made up of residents, government representatives and agencies, health institutions, other nonprofits, educators and advocates for social change, working together to improve access to healthy food through community and economic development and education in Flint, Michigan.

Terry is the point of contact for the organization, serves on edible flint’s leadership board and is a co-lead for one of its five workgroups.

Edible flint’s programs have supported 1,068 food gardens in the city of Flint, 111 of which are community gardens, which have contributed to blight elimination and healthy food access for Flint residents,” Terry said. “Collaboration and convening community partners and organizations has been the strategy to support this work.”

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After the state of emergency was declared in Flint in January of 2016, edible flint reached 4,684 residents through presentations, programs and events, and recruited 76 community volunteers who performed 1,415 volunteer hours for edible flint programs and outreach work.

But their important work is only beginning.

“Through edible flint we’ve secured $197,334 in 2016 through six grants — two renewals and four new water emergency-related grants,” Terry said. “Through a strategic planning process that was made possible by a Michigan Department of Agriculture grant this summer, we’ve identified steps for transitioning from the initial lead crisis response to a sustainable recovery program that increases the local food production capacity in the Flint region while incorporating the evaluation’s stakeholder feedback in the strategic plan’s implementation.”

When we asked Terry what she had learned from these important strategic connections, she spoke about how MSU Extension is a trusted partner and “backbone organization” that has contributed to the success of edible flint. I think she identified a key strength of our organization: our ability to be a backbone in our communities across Michigan. We have a unique role to play when needs are identified or when emergencies occur. By bringing together and working with all of the supportive agencies and organizations in our communities, we can be the backbone of a network that moves Michigan forward.

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