How far do you drive for an apple?
Of the many root contributors to hunger, access can be easily recognized by the availability of nourishing food in a given community. Nourishing food is key, and can come from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, there are many neighborhoods and towns that simply do not possess the consistent means to provide it.
Many neighborhood convenience stores contain shelf stable food items that are inexpensive, but are high calorie, low nutrition foods with long shelf lives. Couple this with an almost exclusive abundance of fast food restaurants, and you have a real problem. Many of those living under this condition face obesity and hunger simultaneously, along with corresponding health issues. Children require proper nutrition to grow strong bodies and minds, and proper nutrition requires access to fresh fruits and vegetables. How are children raised in an environment void of fresh food expected to learn healthy food decision making skills?
Every part of our state faces food insecurity.
This problem is not exclusive to urban neighborhoods. Children in rural settings are just as prone to poor nutrition. In both cases, transportation is a key factor. If the nearest store that provides fresh food is just too far to be accessed consistently, a diet in high calorie, low nutrition foods fills that gap. According to Feeding America, 23% of our state’s children are considered food insecure. For those in the most dire of situations, the only meal that they can rely on each day is the one they receive in school.
Michigan’s network of pantries, shelters, and community kitchens are fed by seven member food banks serving all 83 counties in our state. Each food bank takes it upon themselves to not only provide food to those in need, but to provide healthy food, including fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2014, over 39 million pounds of fresh produce were distributed through our network!
We’re coming to a neighborhood near you.
In addition to recognizing the need for fresh food, food banks also recognize the access problem. For this reason, each food bank works to provide mobile distribution sites in a way that makes sense for the community they serve. A mobile distribution is just that, a site that is set up at a given time, in a given place, to distribute food to those in need. Often times, food banks will set up a mobile distribution right at a school that is determined to be high in need.
This year, Michigan food banks are piloting a new program which is intended not only to increase the amount of produce available to those without consistent access, but to pair the food with nutrition tips and cooking demonstrations. It is our goal to support healthy communities by empowering them with the ability to obtain and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.
Food Bank Council of Michigan would like to thank Michigan Health Endowment Fund for their support of this pilot program.
Stay tuned to Food Bank Council of Michigan to hear more!
To hear Kenneth Estelle speak about this program at Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, watch this video:
Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank Access Nutrition in Schools