Project Focuses on Food Entrepreneurs

A task force has been formed to guide a pilot training program for agribusiness jobs in Ypsilanti, including support for entrepreneurs in food-related businesses. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted to create the task force at its Nov. 2, 2011 meeting, but none of the 17 members to the entity have been identified.

Called ”Seeds for Change: Growing Prosperity in Ypsilanti,” the project is intended to provide job training and placement to unemployed workers interested in agricultural employment, and to offer shared commercial kitchen space and business support to local agri-business entrepreneurs, according to a staff memo. The initiative will also encourage local entities – including governments, universities, hospitals, and other partners – to buy products made from people in this program. Products will be available for purchase with food stamps, to address the nutritional needs of low-income residents and expand the market for locally-produced products.

The project will initially rely on existing county staff, including workforce development resources, as well as local Dept. of Human Services support and possible other public funding, which has not yet been specified. Additional funding from state and federal sources will be needed, according to the staff memo, and the project will seek private grants and volunteer support.

Possible partners include Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, Food Gatherers, Food Systems Economic Partnership, Growing Hope, Think Local First, two local food co-ops, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and University of Michigan Hospital, local school systems, University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, local working farms and farmers’ markets.

This brief was filed from the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. A more detailed report will follow : [link]