GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan’s food economy is about to get a boost thanks to a northern Michigan nonprofit.

The Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities in northern Michigan was recently awarded an $890,000 grant from the USDA to assist with expanding its food and farming program. Over the next few years, the nonprofit will be partnering with West Michigan’s Food Processing Association to connect farmers, producers, aggregators and distributors with area schools and food pantries.

“When we are purchasing local food, we do expect it to be more nutrient dense because it hasn’t been on a truck traveling over 1000 miles to get you. Picked when it’s not ripe, and ripening on the truck,” Jen Schaap, program director, said.

The grant money will go towards removing barriers and addressing supply chain issues while connecting food producers with local customers.

“With over 9000 farmers and 200 food companies of all sizes in this West Michigan region, our opportunity to connect locally produced products and value-added foods to our institutions and communities is abundant,” Marty Gerencer, executive director of West Michigan Food Processing Association, said. “Yet, in many cases, we lack the infrastructure and relationships with local farmers and local buyers.”

Gerencer said the grant would help the association “concentrate on developing relationships along the supply chain, identifying barriers to an efficient supply chain and implementing solutions resulting in connecting farmers to new markets, and communities to healthier foods.”