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Michigan State University


Partner: Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems

Program Name: Shared Measurement


The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) functions as a collective impact backbone organization that convenes partners across the state to promote food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable. The Michigan Good Food Charter describes six shared goals, which these stakeholders are working on to promote healthy food access.

Shared measurement refers to multiple groups using overlapping measurement tools to collect data and share and aggregate the results for mutual learning. Looking to develop a system for shared measurement to identify food-access issues and solutions, CRFS partnered with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition and three Michigan-based partners — Good Food Battle Creek, Food Gatherers in Ypsilanti, and Oakland University in Pontiac. Each represents a mid-sized urban area.

These organizations worked together to conduct a shared survey tool in each of the three cities. The results of this survey are shared for each community individually as well as in aggregate for a greater statewide assessment. The aim of the larger, state report is to influence state-level policy and funding as it relates to healthy food access.

This type of measurement works best when collaborative partnerships have aligned goals, allowing the organizations to work towards those goals together while not duplicating efforts.




The Center’s work on shared measurement began in 2014 with a needs assessment and consensus-building workshop with stakeholders.

Following stakeholder interviews, an advisory committee was formed and a follow-up survey was conducted with a broader group. Then, the advisory committee met to determine project direction and topics to be addressed, as they relate to the six goals of the Good Food Charter.

Areas of importance for data collection were identified and a strong emphasis on food access emerged. Other priorities were economic impact and institutional procurement of local foods.

With other partners, CRFS staff facilitated a series of statewide trainings and offered technical assistance to pilot sites in the three communities in order to build capacity for data collection, data cleaning and analysis, and data visualization.

Food access data was collected from low-income populations and their communities between April and December 2016, including topic areas related to shopping and other food acquisition behaviors, perceptions of food access, and motivating factors for store selection.

One survey (the shared measure) was collectively designed for all three communities and data was collected using iPads and paper/pencil in community settings such as farmers markets, pantries and other service providers.



Of the 739 responses, 282 were from Ypsilanti, 176 from Battle Creek and 281 from Pontiac. A majority, 67 percent, were female, 54% were African American, and the largest age group was ages 55 and up with 44% of responding reporting being in this age group. Household income reported at $10,000 or less for 39.3% of respondents, $10,001-20,000 for 24.8%, and greater than $20,000 for 35.9%.

Reporting the three communities’ data individually as well as collectively helped pinpoint unique aspects of each community based on the context of the others. Combined in aggregate, the three communities’ sample size expands the impact of the findings.


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Some of our discoveries:


Perceived food access in general was determined by the item “I have easy access to stores that meet my needs. Easy access means the store is located in your neighborhood, or another convenient location you can easily walk, bike, drive, or take the bus to.”


Responses differed significantly by:

  • Ethnicity – those indicating their ethnicity as Hispanic had higher rates of adequate food access 
  • Travel time – those indicating they typically travel 10 minutes or less to get groceries reported higher rates of adequate food access 
  • Obtaining food at small grocery stores –those who reported obtaining food at small grocery stores were more likely to report adequate food access
  • Travel by taxi – those who reported NOT traveling by taxi for groceries were more likely to report adequate food access

Cups of vegetables consumed varied significantly across population groups: 

  • Income – those in higher income categories tended to report consuming more cups of vegetables
  • Gender – females were more likely than males to report consuming more cups of vegetables
  • Percent poverty – those who had a higher incomes relative to their household size (percent of the poverty line), tended to report consuming more cups of vegetables
  • Perceived food access – those who perceive adequate food access tended to report consuming more cups of vegetables 
  • Obtaining food at warehouse stores – Those reported obtaining food at warehouse stores tended to report consuming more cups of vegetables
  • Obtaining food at supermarkets – Those reported obtaining food at supermarkets stores tended to report consuming more cups of vegetables


Together with statewide secondary data, findings will be used for a higher level generalization of Michigan’s statewide trends in food access. A report will be released publicly, and community-level goals will be developed based on findings. This collective model will next be applied to rural communities across the state.