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Lessons of a Michigan billboard

michigan f&v billboard
Photo by Richard Smoley

At the beginning of April, the town of Bridgman, MI, in the southwestern part of the state, on the shores of Lake Michigan, is sleepily waking up for the tourist season.

I didn’t expect to see anything of much interest in Bridgman driving north on Emergency I-94, a four-lane road running alongside the real I-94. But I did. It was a billboard, showing a smiling mother and child, with the slogan “Show Them the Way: Eat Fruits and Veggies Every Day.”

richard smoley produce blueprints

I took a picture of this unusual item and looked up the organization sponsoring it: the Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF), “created in 1994 as a private charitable foundation to advance the policies and programs of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health, and Sports. MFF’s board of directors is comprised of residents who play a vital role in the promotion of health, wellness, and physical activity throughout the state of Michigan.”

The billboard is part of MFF’s broader program promoting heathy diet and recreation: “Go out and play. Move more, sit less. We all need physical activity to stay strong and healthy. From sleeping better to getting better grades, being active helps in so many ways. And, when you move with your kids, you get the benefits, too.”

The pitch is aimed at parents, but the ultimate goal is to promote healthy living for children. The site also provides a link to Michigan Farm to Family CSA (community supported agriculture): “This model makes it possible for families to purchase and consume more fresh fruits and vegetables and strengthen their local food systems using SNAP/EBT/Bridge Card as their form of payment.” Michigan Farm to Family CSA Directory – Michigan Fitness Foundation.

Another link is to the Michigan Food Assistance program and the Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutritional Program (WIC). MI Bridges (

In short, the MFF is focusing its efforts on one of the principal goals of the produce industry: to promote increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially among the poor. It’s a worthwhile effort. Still, I suspect that it will take many more of these to make a noticeable change in American eating habits.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.