Hoophouses for Health

Farmers MarketThe Hoophouses for Health program is designed to build the capacity of low-income families to access and utilize more fruits and vegetables in their diet to improve the health of their families while building the capacity of the agricultural community to meet the demand for fresh produce all year long.

Hoophouses extends the growing season and allows Michigan farmers to grow cold-tolerant vegetables through the winter months. In 2012, the Hoophouses for Health program was implemented by farmers at six participating farmers markets:

  • Battle Creek
  • Downtown Marquette
  • Downtown Saginaw
  • Downtown Ypsilanti
  • A Satellite of the Flint Farmers Market
  • Lapeer Farmers Market

Building upon the increasing number of farmers markets that are accepting food assistance benefits all across the state, the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), in partnership with the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems and the MSU Student Organic Farm, is facilitating a program designed to introduce vulnerable families to their local farmers market and to provide them with the resources they need to become loyal, repeat customers. The Michigan Head Start Association (MHSA) is working with MIFMA to facilitate the connection between the markets and the vulnerable children and families of Head Start.

This program is just one component of the Center for Regional Food Systems’ Farm to Preschool programming. The program, called “Hoophouses for Health,” is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and allows food insecure families to assist farmers in paying back loans they have secured to build hoophouses on their farm. A hoophouse is an unheated, plastic-covered structure that enables farmers to extend their growing season and permits farmers to grow and harvest cold-tolerant vegetables throughout the winter months.

Hoophouses are increasingly becoming a pivotal part of eating local year round in Michigan. Through this loan program, farmers pay off their hoophouse loans by accepting vouchers as payment for the food they sell at the farmers market. Vouchers collected constitute repayment on their hoophouse loans. This two-generation strategy targets both parents and kids by providing parents tools to demonstrate to their children how to eat fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. By introducing Head Start families to farmers markets where they can access fresh fruits and vegetables the program begins to build communities and healthy habits for families early on.