Food Finance Institute to be Wisconsin Network Coordinator for Great Lakes Midwest Regional Food Business Center


MADISON — The Food Finance Institute (FFI), part of UW System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship is thrilled to be a key partner on one of twelve recently USDA-awarded Regional Food Business Centers: The Great Lakes Midwest Regional Food Business Center.

The Great Lakes Midwest Center will be housed at the Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS). It will represent four states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.

“The Food Finance Institute has been working closely with CRFS for years to help build more profitable and resilient food businesses leveraging our training, tools, expertise and partners,” says FFI Acting Director Sarah Larson. “Wisconsin has so much talent and innovation, both through stakeholder partners and entrepreneurs. This important funding will help us best harness and leverage this ecosystem to increase access to food-focused entrepreneurship and build more resilient businesses.”

Regional Food Business Centers are part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) framework to transform food systems announced in June 2022, with proposals requested in late 2022. They will serve as the cornerstone of USDA’s development of local and regional supply chains by offering coordination, technical assistance and capacity-building support to small and mid-sized food and farm businesses, with the goal of creating a more resilient, diverse and competitive food system.

As a key partner serving as a network coordinator, Food Finance Institute will be responsible for:

  • Coordination: build a more resilient, diverse and competitive food system through partnership and stakeholder development and communication
  • Technical Assistance (TA): assist with identifying priority needs for TA, discovering TA providers, delivering or connecting state-wide businesses with TA and resources
  • Capacity-building Support: help with deploying Business Builder awards (financial assistance) of up to $100K to businesses across the region and the state

“UW System is excited to be representing Wisconsin within the USDA’s Great Lakes Regional Food Business Center, and to coordinate technical assistance and deploy funding to support growing and emerging food and farm businesses, said Jeff Buhrandt, Vice President for University Relations at UW System. “Having an industry-focused program like the Food Finance Institute dedicated to creating resilient and profitable food-focused businesses makes this a natural fit for Wisconsin. Food is such a large part of our economy, and we look forward to expanding opportunities for entrepreneurship and increasing capacity for this important sector.”

Regional Food Business Centers are expected to launch in July 2023 through five-year cooperative agreements with the USDA.

Read more about the Regional Food Business Centers from the USDA and from MSU.

About USDA

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit

About Food Finance Institute

The Food Finance Institute (FFI) leverages and supports a collaborative network of professionals focused on building and funding profitable businesses in the food, beverage and value-added agriculture sector. Through training, coaching, resources, tools and mentorship, FFI fulfills its mission of making sophisticated financial technical assistance available to growing enterprises. In addition, FFI is the home of the Edible-Alpha® brand. Edible-Alpha® is a digital resource hub that includes the Edible-Alpha® podcast and our Insights newsletter. FFI is part of the University of Wisconsin System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship.

About Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS)

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) unites the knowledge of diverse food systems stakeholders with that of MSU faculty and staff to advance regionally-rooted food systems through applied research, education and outreach. Our work fosters a thriving economy, equity and sustainability for Michigan, the nation and the planet by increasing understanding of and engagement with systems that produce food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable. Learn more at 

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