As the COVID-19 pandemic lingered into 2021, food and nutrition insecurity became an increasingly dire issue across the entire state of Michigan. That’s why, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation teamed up in December 2021 to distribute $650,000 worth of grant funding across 14 nonprofit organizations that prioritize supplying healthy food to the Michigan families and individuals that need it most. On Tuesday, March 22, BCBSM, BCBSM Foundation, and funding partners met virtually with representatives from those 14 organizations to thank them for their dedication to their communities and to hear the progress each organization has made with its grant thus far.
“This grant will allow us to restart our pop-up markets,” said Coleman Yoakum during the event. Yoakum is the executive director of the Micah 6 Community, a community development nonprofit based in Pontiac. “Prior to COVID, we had six pop-up markets all over the city of Pontiac. We’d set up small, affordable farm stands in places where there was already a concentration of high-risk populations,” Yoakum went on. “So, we were at our senior centers, a number of churches in our neighborhood, our Head Start location, our Pontiac Public Library. And so, this funding will allow us to restart those pop-up markets and allow us to put produce back in front of people we were serving prior to the pandemic. This is huge for us.” Grant funds were dispersed across five regions of Michigan: Southeast Michigan, Mid-Michigan, Bay Area, Northern Michigan, and West Michigan. “This initiative addresses a critical public health issue of food and nutrition insecurity,” said Audrey Harvey, CEO and executive director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. “Together, the work this exemplary group has set out to accomplish will offer more community-inspired means to provide healthy, accessible food to people where they are.”
Before March 2020, about 1.3 million Michigan residents faced food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. As the pandemic wore on, that figure spiked to 1.9 million residents, as an estimated 600,000 additional people in the state struggled with healthy food access. Additionally, there are 25 counties in Michigan where 15% or more of the population is food insecure. The numbers of food-insecure children in Michigan are even higher, as there are 12 counties in which 20% or more of the children are food insecure, according to 2021 statistics from Feeding America. Here are the 14 organizations that received “Addressing Food and Nutrition Insecurity to Improve Health Equity” grants, along with the counties they serve and the projects this funding will help launch or grow.
- Access of West Michigan (Kent County) received $50,000 toward its “Good Food Systems Initiative.”
- Allen Neighborhood Center (Ingham County) received $50,000 toward its “Enhancing Food Security: Edible Park, Breadbasket Pantry and Veggie Box Solidarity Program.”
- Barry County Community Foundation (Barry County) received $50,000 toward its “Building a Sustainable Local Food System in Barry County” program.
- Community Action House (Ottawa County) received $75,000 toward its “Healthy Eating & Nutrition Advocacy at the Holland/Zeeland Food Club” project.
- Greater Lansing Food Bank (Ingham County) received $50,000 toward its “Breaking Down Barriers Through a Food-First Approach” project.
- Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Inc. (Grand Traverse County) received $75,000 toward “Fresh Food for All: A Collective Approach to Executing and Distributing Local Food Purchases for Emergency Food Providers.”
- Micah 6 Community (Oakland County) received $20,000 toward its “Expand and Restart Pop-Up Markets” program.
- National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (Washtenaw/Wayne County) received $60,000 toward its “Growing Health Futures in Inkster” project.
- Oakland University School of Health Sciences (Oakland) received $60,000 toward its “Prescription for a Healthy Oakland-Southeast Expansion” project.
- R.I.S.E Corp (Calhoun County) received $50,000 toward its “RISE Healthy Food Community Distribution Program.”
- Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association (Kent County) received $20,000 toward its “Expansion of Cesar E. Chavez Farmers Market Services & Community Garden Programming” initiative.
- United Way of Northeast Michigan (Alcona/Alpena/Montmorency counties) received $75,000 toward its “Northeast Michigan Healthy Food Project.”
- Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency (Wayne County) received $25,000 toward “The Empowered Pantry” project.
- YMCA of Saginaw (Saginaw County) received $50,000 toward its “Mini Food Pantries” initiative.
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