Ferris State University helps people of Myanmar through Anu Sushi contract

The Ferris State University dining services operation contracts with Kentwood-based Anu Sushi, a catering company whose production staff includes refugees from Myanmar, a nation in Asia facing violent political struggle following a military coup earlier this year. Anu Sushi also provides a meal to orphans in Myanmar for each unit it sells. Courtesy Ferris State University

A sushi supplier to Ferris State University is making an impact providing meals to orphans and employing refugees from Myanmar.

The Ferris State University dining services operation contracts with Kentwood-based caterer Anu Sushi as its sushi provider, and Scott Rossen, Ferris’ director of dining services, said he is pleased to have received a first-quarter 2021 report from Anu Sushi that the company supplied 964 meals to orphanages in Myanmar during that period from its campus sushi sales while also employing refugees from the Asian nation that is facing violence after a military coup earlier this year.

“In my professional experience, some of the staff who process sushi are subject to poor treatment in the production process,” Rossen said. “We were impressed by Anu Sushi’s desire to change that dynamic by providing a better way of life for the workers and their expressed commitment to support orphanages in Myanmar.”

Anu Sushi, which the Business Journal (Grand Rapids Magazine’s sister publication) featured two years ago, is majority owned by founder Pastor Bawi Lian. His niece, former co-owner and the business’ namesake, Bawi “Anu” Sung, has moved on to other pursuits.

The company was founded in 2018 on the idea of “sushi and purpose rolled into one.” It started in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market incubator kitchen, then graduated to its own space at 900 52nd St. SE in Kentwood (which soon will add retail drive-thru service and third-party online ordering) and now it has additional production facilities in metro Detroit and Chicago with additional minority shareholders there. The business currently is seeking certification as a minority-owned business.

Bawi Lian was imprisoned in Myanmar (formerly called Burma, and whose refugees typically identify as Burmese) and he fled to West Michigan — which has a significant Burmese refugee population — in 2009. Since then, he has worked to create meaningful employment opportunities for refugees by founding Anu Sushi. The company’s other purpose is to feed Burmese orphans. To that end, Anu Sushi has donated well over 100,000 meals to orphanages in Myanmar with which Bawi Lian is directly connected.

Kristi Boomgaard, Anu Sushi customer relations manager, said many of the company’s customers are hospitals, colleges and universities. Its products are presented as nutritious and easy dining options.

“Customers in these types of facilities are looking for a grab-and-go product,” Boomgaard said. “Our branding is focused on our corporate philosophy, ‘Sushi and purpose rolled into one,’ so everyone is aware they are feeding an orphan when they trade with us.”

Boomgaard said Anu Sushi is enjoying success at a time when markets have been changeable because of pandemic-induced remote business operations.

“We began with a kitchen in Grand Rapids, where Myanmar refugees play key roles in our production,” Boomgaard said. “We have opened kitchens in Novi and Chicago in the last year and are enjoying good business in both those markets.”

Rossen said as the entire dining services operation returns in the 2021-22 academic year, it will look forward to increased consumption of Anu Sushi selections and awareness about the company’s mission.

“I am more than happy that we can be involved with companies who are focused on this kind of mission and practice,” Rossen said.

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