Blue Plate Project

Community joins to fight food insecurity

A manufacturer, a community foundation, a ski resort and an organic farm make common cause with a local nonprofit to fight hunger.

Submitted by Mary Brower of Bluestem Farm


According to, hunger significantly impacts every county in northern Michigan. Up to a fifth of all households with children are affected.


It is not necessarily the case that the needs of these families are met by federal programs. Up to a third of the food-insecure children in northern Michigan do not have access to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also referred to as Food Stamps.


That’s where local organization Blue Plate steps in. Blue Plate raises funds to offer nutritious, local food to families in need.


Why Blue Plate? During the Great Depression, a Blue Plate Special was the name of a low-cost, balanced meal combo—a ‘square for two bits’.


To identify recipients, Blue Plate partners with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. Then Bluestem Farm, a year-round organic farm located in East Jordan, grows extra food to give away in the form of farm subscriptions, also known as CSA shares.


“It’s very hard to be truly healthy without access to plenty of vegetables and high-quality protein. As organic farmers, we strongly believe that. But we also know that good food costs more, and that puts it out of the reach of too many people,” Mary Brower, owner of Bluestem Farm, said.  


Blue Plate makes common cause with a wide coalition of local and global businesses and organizations to help people who lack funds to eat well. In 2017, Blue Plate counted a host of generous individuals as supporters, as well as the Charlevoix County Community Foundation (CCCF), Industrial Magnetics, Inc. (IMI), and Boyne Mountain Resort. In years past, a church, a yoga teacher, and an indie band also held fundraisers in support of their food outreach efforts.


Early this year, employees of Industrial Magnetics, Inc. (IMI) presented a donation to Blue Plate in the amount of $467.95. IMI is a Boyne City-based manufacturer of magnetic assemblies that distributes products worldwide.


The way they raised funds for the donation was fun, as well as a little unusual.


At the beginning of each calendar quarter, an IMI employee picks a charity of choice. Throughout that quarter, employees pay $1 on Friday if they wish to wear jeans. In the 4th quarter of 2016, employee Katie Simon stepped forward to donate the charity funds on behalf of Blue Plate.


“Our community in Northern Michigan strongly supports local farmers. Helping people participate in CSA shares and encouraging participation in our beautiful, year-round Boyne City Farmer’s Market is a reflection of our company’s dedication to our community,” says Josette Lory, Human Resources Director of IMI.


Also in 2017, The Charlevoix County Community Foundation contributed a gift in the amount of $1,000. CCCF is a local charitable organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all citizens of Charlevoix County by building permanent endowment, addressing needs through grantmaking, and providing leadership resources to serve the community. 


“The community foundation is proud to join this list of generous individuals, industries, and government organizations who are contributing to end food insecurity for our friends and neighbors. It is difficult to make an impact alone, but together we can change folks’ lives for the better by providing nutritious, organic food, with Bluestem Farm leading the way. We are grateful to Bluestem Farm for this caring, sharing effort,” said Maureen Radke, Program Officer of the Charlevoix County Community Foundation.


As a result of this outpouring of community generosity, Blue Plate was able to offer local food subscriptions to 10 families in need in the summer of 2017 alone. As northern Michigan heads into the snowy months of winter, Blue Plate anticipates it will be able to offer free Bluestem Farm winter CSA memberships to an additional six or seven families in need.


They are well on their way to that goal. Nearly a thousand dollars has already been dedicated by generous individual donors for winter gift memberships. Additionally, Boyne Mountain Resort has stepped in with a pledge of 10% of food sales from the grand finale of their fall Farm-to-Table Fridays event series, held this year on October 13.


You can lend your support the healthy nutrition of neighbors in need by donating at, by organizing a fundraising effort at work or in the community, or by attending the October 13 Farm-to-Table finale meal at Boyne Mountain.


More about Boyne Mountain’s Farm-to-Table events series:


More about Blue Plate a


More about the Charlevoix County Community Foundation: or by calling 231-536-2440.


More about Bluestem Farm: