Street Talk: There’s more than one way to grow


Kids’ Food Basket is nearly ready to begin construction on its new headquarters.

Construction for a new building will begin in June on the nearly 15 acres of land the organization purchased at 1919 Leonard St. NE in Grand Rapids, with a goal to be operational by fall 2019.

The purchased land contained nearly 10 acres of the last available farmland in Grand Rapids, said Bridget Clark Whitney, the organization’s executive director.

When it became available, John Wheeler of Orion Construction immediately purchased the land for $520,000, and the organization paid him back shortly after with funds from its ongoing $7-million capital campaign.

Broken down, campaign funds cover $2.8 million for the building, $1.8 million for the land and site development, and $1.5 million for programming expansion.

Of the 15 acres, a 5-acre lot will house the new building, and the rest will be used as farmland.

The plan is for the organization to grow its own fruits and vegetables for the Sack Supper program, which feeds nightly meals to children from 34 schools in Kent County. That’s more than 6,000 meals in Kent County each day of the year, plus another 2,000 meals per day in Muskegon and Ottawa counties.

There also are 16 schools on the waitlist, but the organization will not have capacity to take on more clients until it moves into its new space.

With the headquarters will come the start of a new education program to teach children the importance of healthy food and how to make lifelong healthy choices. A piece of the education will give kids the opportunity to grow food in the garden themselves.

In her research of programs around the country, Clark Whitney found the organizations providing direct service and an educational aspect were the most successful.

“We had a lot of support from our local philanthropists in evolving this work,” she said.

The organization has about $1 million to go to reach its capital campaign goal. Clark Whitney said companies can help reach that goal by taking part in the many naming opportunities inside the building.

“The only way that we can continue to thrive as a city is if we continue to develop our youth,” Clark Whitney said. “We want every child nourished so that he or she can reach their full potential.”

Digital duty

Gov. Rick Snyder established a consortium to help lead a “digital transformation” in Michigan.

Snyder announced earlier this month the initial appointments to the Michigan Consortium of Advanced Networks.

The consortium is directed to submit a final report by Aug. 1 that establishes a roadmap to help strengthen statewide broadband access and connectivity.

“Ensuring all Michiganders have access to secure, reliable and affordable broadband services is an important step in our work to maximize Michigan’s momentum long into the future," Snyder said. “Each person appointed to this consortium brings a variety of experience that will be instrumental in establishing recommendations to develop statewide broadband access and connectivity, and I thank them for their commitment to this topic.”

The 13-member board consists of seven gubernatorial appointees, two of whom are recommended by state legislature. Members represent the public and private sectors, broadband providers and stakeholders.

The seven gubernatorial appointees are:

  • David DeVries, board chair
  • Bonnie Alfonso, president and CEO of Alfie Logo Gear and member of the board of directors and executive committee for Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Dan Dundas, deputy director of the Michigan Senate Majority Policy Office
  • Seth Earl, district conservationist for the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Linglong He, chief information officer of Quicken Loans Inc.
  • Gavin Leach, vice president of finance and administration at Northern Michigan University
  • Daniel Williams, president and CEO of the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology

The other six members — or their respective designees — will serve as ex-officio, nonvoting members:

  • The director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget
  • The director of the Michigan State Police
  • The director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • The chief executive officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation
  • The chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission
  • The director of the Department of Transportation

The Michigan Consortium of Advanced Networks was created by Executive Order 2018-2 and in alignment with Section 1, Article 4 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963.

The consortium is housed within the Executive Office and serves in an advisory capacity to the governor. Members will serve terms limited to the governor’s will.


Alliance Beverage, a Bell’s Brewery distributor since 1990, has been pulling double duty this week to deliver 35,500 cases and kegs to retailers across West Michigan in preparation for Oberon Day on March 26.

“Oberon Day is one of the biggest beer holidays of the year in Michigan, and we’re proud to work hand-in-glove with the team at Bell’s to ensure stores, bars and restaurants have plenty of Oberon to meet the demand of beer lovers looking for that first taste of Bell’s iconic summer beer,” said Brendan Gary, director of marketing at Alliance. “Our employees have been working diligently with our retail partners to coordinate special event tappings and floor displays in advance of the big day.”

Oberon, an American wheat ale, is one of the most recognizable craft beers in Michigan. It was originally released under the name Solsun, which was eventually changed to Oberon in 1998.

“This daylong celebration of Oberon signals the unofficial start to spring, baseball season and all the joys that come with warmer weather in the Great Lakes state,” Gary said.

A number of bars are tapping Oberon at midnight March 26. Alliance delivers Bell’s to 24 counties in the western half of the state.

Muskegon strong

Muskegon made it to the final four. Nope, not that Final Four.

Muskegon made the final four towns in a contest that rates the resilience of local communities.

Strong Towns is a nonprofit organization that promotes communities that are financially strong and resilient through the work of local citizens or “people who care.”

The Strong Town education strategy is to recognize communities that are making economic and social progress through this competition.

Muskegon was selected a few weeks ago to enter the bracketed competition based on answers to a questionnaire sent to cities and towns across the nation. Muskegon was one of 16 communities selected to begin the contest.

“I received a questionnaire a few weeks ago and thought, ‘I might as well fill this out and see what happens,’” said Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “With all the progress we have made in recent years, we have so much to brag about.”

Muskegon’s direct competition for the third round was Annapolis, Maryland, another waterfront community. The winner was announced after press time but can be found at

Larsen said she was asking for a little home-team support, since Muskegon is the only remaining city in Michigan represented in the competition, and hoped the Wolverine state turned out in droves.

“Like many Michigan communities, we have worked hard to reinvent our city,” she said. “Muskegon is the poster child for all of the Michigan cities who have rebuilt their downtowns, expanded business and attracted new tourists. We rallied the people who care about their hometown and now have something exciting to show for it.”

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