Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer Inc. plans to expand its local fresh produce sourcing in an effort to pump more money into the area economy.

Meijer ramps up locally grown program

“Meijer has always been one of the largest purchasers of locally grown fruits and vegetables during the peak growing seasons,” said Hank Meijer, co-chairman and chief executive officer of the chain, in a news release. “This year we plan to expand our Home Grown initiative by working with more than 65 local growers throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.”

Meijer said it handles more than 75 locally grown-fruits and vegetables from area growers, accounting for $50 million into the local economy.

Local produce accounts for nearly 30% of all fruits and vegetables sold by the 189-store chain during peak growing season. Last year it sold more than 20 million pounds of Michigan apples, a million ears of local sweet corn, a million pounds of Michigan asparagus and more than 45 million pounds of locally grown potatoes, according to the release.

“What makes our sourcing of local produce different is the fact that we strive to work directly with local growers to purchase locally grown products,” said Mark Stevenson, produce director, in the release. “Our produce teams meet with the farmers, inspect every item that is delivered to our doors and work with the local farms to ensure that it’s a relationship that’s beneficial to all.”

Meijer named some of its grower partners — E. Miedema & Sons Inc., Byron Center, Mich., cabbage; Frey Farms Inc., Remington, Indiana, melons; Michael Farms, Urbana, Ohio, green beans; and Holland, Mich.-based Midwest Blueberry Farms.

“So much of what we do is aimed at giving back to our local communities through our philanthropy programs and community outreach efforts,” Meijer said in the news release. “Our Home Grown program supports this effort. By sourcing from local farms and farmers, we not only help put money in local farmers’ pockets, but we help bring their farm-fresh, local produce straight to the tables of neighboring families so they can enjoy the local bounty.”

The chain plans to hold in-store events to celebrate its Home Grown initiative.