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Food Systems and Food Innovation Districts

A food innovation district is a geographic concentration of food-oriented business, services, and community activities that are supported locally through planning and economic development initiatives. These districts can promote positive business environments, spur regional food system development, and increase access to local food.

Food innovation districts often include services such as markets, food business incubators, and facilities for common storage, packing, and distribution needs. By encouraging business collaboration, they provide important opportunities for product aggregation, information sharing, and partnering on events and market promotion. These districts also provide fertile ground for regional food hubs to grow, and for related food and farm ventures and market channels to emerge.


Food Innovation Districts GuidebookFood Innovation Districts Guidebook Now Available

With funding from USDA-Rural Development, the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments and the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems worked together with project partners Regional Food Solutions Inc,  practicum students from Michigan State University, and stakeholders throughout Michigan to prepare a guidebook that communities nationwide can use to establish and encourage food innovation districts. 

The guidebook, Food Innovation Districts: An Economic Gardening Tool is  a package of how-to information and examples that can help local governments and other stakeholders step into and benefit from the growing market and community demand for local and regional food. The guidebook identifies a process for developing food innovation districts that support economic gardening concepts through the co-location and collaboration of food businesses of different types. The guide zeroes in on the roles that planners, economic developers, elected officials and community champions have in food innovation district development and the steps they can take. Resources, including a how-to worksheet and zoning guidance, are included in the guide to help communities take the first steps toward food innovation district planning.

The guidebook and related resources are available below. 

Executive Summary: Food Innovation Districts

Food Innovation Districts: An Economic Gardening Tool

Food Innovation District Development Worksheet (MS Word Document)

Food Innovation Districts in Kalkaska: An Implementation Study


Additional Resources

Additional food systems and food innovation resources are available below:

Project Overview

Food Innovation District Guide Release - Press Release

MSU Practicum Team FID Report

TEDx - Manhattan - Patty Cantrell - New Roads to New Markets



Food Innovation Districts: an Economic Gardening Tool Guidebook earned Networks Northwest (then NWMCOG)  a 2013 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO).“This award is an honor for NWMCOG and the project partners who helped us create the guidebook,” said NMMCOG Regional Planner Sarah Lucas. “We hope communities will use the guide to identify food innovation assets in their communities, and that new ideas or projects that can leverage those assets will grow out of these discussions around food innovation districts."

The professionals at Networks Northwest help our City Council, Planning Commission, and staff make thoughtful decisions to ensure our community is sustainable and resilient for many years to come.
- Mark Heydlauff, Charlevoix City Manager