Here are Ways to Support Healthy Families Locally
BY CHRISTINE ROBERE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, UNITED WAY OF THE LAKESHORE
Help families in under-resourced neighborhoods eat healthy while on a budget!
In the U.S., 41 million families and 12.9 million children are at greater risk for costly and serious health problems – all because they don’t get enough to eat.
From mobile food pantries to health education that helps families maximize their food budgets and cook healthy meals, United Way of the Lakeshore and their partners are finding creative solutions to help communities fill the gap.
We make it easier every day for families to get healthy food on a budget, where they live and when they need it. But we can’t do it alone, we need your help to stand against hunger.
Join us by taking one – or more! – of the actions below.
Summer Stock Up for Muskegon
United Way of the Lakeshore launches Summer Stock Up food drive for local pantries.
With Kellogg’s as a primary driver, United Ways across Michigan are participating in a first-ever statewide event to collect food in their areas, for their areas throughout June.
Every year, food pantries across Muskegon are fully stocked in the winter months thanks to generous holiday donations – but when summer comes, donations drop considerably and pantry shelves become sparse. This can leave low-income, hard-working families with limited options during this time of year.
United Way of the Lakeshore asks local businesses and community members to participate in our “Summer Stock Up” event to restock local food pantries with items to get them through the warmer months.
Join United Way in bringing some cheer to local pantries this June! Click here.
How Summer Stock Up was born. The statewide Summer Stock Up event evolved out of the popular “Christmas in June” local food drive that was done annually by United Way of Southwest Michigan. In 2020, because of the pandemic, UWSM pivoted from an in-person food drop-off event to a virtual event that provided safe shopping options that allowed donors to “shop their impact” by giving online.
The success of “Christmas in June” caught the attention of Kellogg’s, and the corporation stepped in to help reconceptualize it as a statewide “Summer Stock Up.” As the premiere sponsor, Kellogg’s has been a leader in rallying 23 United Ways in Michigan to the cause.
Advocate for Healthy Food Access
Join other United Way of the Lakeshore supporters in Muskegon so that lawmakers will prioritize healthy food access for families most.
You’ll be part of growing 1,000’s of pounds of fresh produce and eggs distributed to local families each year.
McLaughlin Grows (The Farm) at Community enCompass. Volunteer at McLaughlin Grows with Community enCompass, United Way partner. McLaughlin Grows, affectionately known as “The Farm,” sits on busy Laketon Avenue, adjacent to Hackley Hospital. Cars, buses, ambulances, and motorcycles drive quickly by, often unaware of this rural oasis in an urban desert. But if you take a few minutes to stop you will be transported into a different world. A world that delights all the senses.
Every Wednesday afternoon, the gates to the farm are swung wide open, welcoming neighbors to purchase the home grown produce. One of the regulars is a woman who drops in every week to stock up on her fresh produce so she can share it with friends. Drivers pull their cars into the gravel lot to pick up their weekly CSA shares, going home with a bag full of aromatic freshly picked produce.
The Farm is an oasis in a desert and delights the senses. Stop in soon! Become a Friend on McGrows Facebook Page and check out more pics.
Love Community Garden (Shoreline Branch of the Fruitport Lions). Love Community Garden grows foods, and supports community coming together around food. It is a volunteer organization that sees community around food, and the resources it takes to grow food and a better community. The garden started with a mission to bring the community together around some food. In the process of growing food there is a lot of learning, sharing and caring and that was/is the intent of Love Community Garden co-founders. You can volunteer by clicking here!
The Lakes Community Garden (Connection Point Church). At Connection Point they desire to partner with great ministries in the community. One of those partners is the NCRC. The Nazarene Community Resource Center is a Christ-centered bridge building organization with a focus on the spiritual, emotional, physical, and social well-being of families and individuals. One of the greatest services that the NCRC provides is a community garden on their property that feeds over 2500 families annually. Anyone and everyone is welcome to come and pick up food from our garden. During the summer months the garden is open for pick up Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11:00 am. Contact Terry Luce or Rich Mitchell for more information at Tlluce@frontier.com. You can also take a look at their Facebook page here!
Jefferson Street Neighborhood Garden (Mission for Area People). Jefferson Street Neighborhood Garden, a project of Mission for Area People, is in the process of planning this year’s garden. Volunteers are needed to help with planting and seasonal maintenance.
If you will be available throughout the spring and summer seasons and would like to help with the garden, please contact our director at (231) 733-9672.
Operation Healthy Heights (Coalition for Community Development).
Access to healthy food and nutrition: school and community gardens. Disparities often affect availability of food options in a community. To increase access to healthy food and knowledge about nutrition, CCD partnered with the schools and created gardens at Edgewood Elementary and Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary. These "outdoor classrooms" share the joy of gardening while teaching science, reading, and math skills during each session. Learning how to make healthy snacks from the produce is part of the fun. Additionally, students take a field trip each year to a local blueberry farm to learn more about agricultural businesses and pick blueberries to take home.
Since the summer of 2011, MHPSA elementary students have participated in hands-on gardening experiences. At the Edgewood and MLK school gardens, students also enjoy preparing and sampling healthy snacks made from their harvested produce. Our Green team of students from the after school program at MLK meet weekly in the OHH Garden room to start seeds and maintain watering – and watching them grow, including lettuce, onions, mustard greens, spinach and more!
Garden Lessons continued – virtually! During Fall 2020, as students continued with distance learning, CCD wanted to ensure they still experienced Garden Time. Our Garden Coordinator, Antonette Robinson, and our garden volunteers have helped create Garden Time videos, complete with themes, healthy recipes, and activity sheets. The Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System included these materials in the weekly Learning Plans for students, and also, to make it even more complete of an External Exposure experience, their food service provider, Chartwell, sent home to each student/family the ingredients necessary to make the recipe shown in the videos. Take a look, we hope you enjoy these as well!
Support a Local Food Pantry
Donate food to local permanent and mobile pantries, like these:
• Salvation Army
• Love INC (Loaves & Fishes)
• Freddie Townsend Action Center
• Fifth Reformed Church
• Catholic Charities
• Abundant Life Tabernacle
• Apostolic Church of God
• Feeding America West Michigan
• Mission for Area People (Christ Temple Church)
• First Evangelical Lutheran
• Fruitland Evangelical Lutheran Church
• Lebanon Lutheran
• Fruitport Congregational Church
• Muskegon County Department of Veterans Affairs
• Wolf Lake United Methodist
• Muskegon Rescue Mission
• City Heart Ministries
• Muskegon-Oceana Community Action Partnership (MOCAP)
• Harbor of Grace Lutheran
Pantries provide an effective way for families to get food when they need to stretch their budget to make ends meet or as temporary relief when unexpected expenses come up. When you donate, consider healthy options like canned salmon, dried beans or brown rice to help increase the availability of nutritious items.
Donate money to United Way of the Lakeshore to support local pantries (United Way partner pantries bolded in the list). Donated money can often be stretched further by our food pantry partners because of bulk purchasing deals. Plus, cash donations help pantries purchase fresh fruit and vegetables.
Food Budget Related Program
Through the United Way partner funded program, New Directions hosted by Love INC, families can learn various strategies for maximizing their food budget as well as other money management classes. All new directions participants attend a program orientation in order to be in the program or attend any Love INC classes. Orientations are held at the main Love INC office. All you need to do is call and ask to sign up for a New Directions Orientation. During orientation you will learn about Love INC services, the New directions program, classes, and incentives. New Directions provides a safe, nurturing environment for learning and personal development. New classes are always being developed and added to our course menu but all classes will fall into one of four categories:
• Budgeting and Money Management classes
• Parenting and Family Life classes
• Life Skills classes
• Faith Building classes
Program participants earn valuable family resources for attending classes (things like diapers, wipes, meats, food, gas cards, bus passes, and more!) Participants are also able to start earning towards Christmas gifts for their families. Sign up for an orientation here to learn all about it!
Healthy Cooking Classes (Kitchen 242, Muskegon Farmers Market)
In Kitchen 242, families learn what to look for at the grocery store and new ideas for creating healthy meals the whole family will enjoy at home. Often these ingredients are found right from the farmers market!
Power of Produce. While on the subject of the Muskegon Farmers Market, it is important to talk about the Power of Produce! The Power Of Produce (POP) Club is a nationally recognized kids program that empowers kids to make healthy food choices, introducing them to where their food comes from. This program launched at the Muskegon Farmers Market in 2014.
How the Pop Club works for kids between the ages of three to 13 years:
• POP Club will be available on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. June through August, 2021.
• Enrollment begins June 5, 2021 for the season. Enrollment is limited. They had 800 kids sign up in the past, so register your kids promptly so they will be able to participate.
• Meet the club at the market at stall #14 (Morris Street side). Sign their “Passport To Health.” We keep the Passport at the Market’s office to track participation
• Receive a POP reusable shopping bag.
• Receive $2 every time they come to market when POP Club is operating, in wooden tokens to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables and food plants.
• Participate in value-creating activities (POP CLUB FUN!) based around food, nutrition and food growing. At every summer Saturday Market you can find activities such as Seed Planting, Salad-Making, Flour-Grinding and pancake-making, Jam-Making, wormy fun with Worm Bins, Crawly Critters and fun bugs, scavenger hunt …and more!
Look for a schedule when checking in at the market or watch this website for details.
Power of Produce Seniors. Opening on July 13, 2021, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Meets every Tuesday as long as funding lasts.
This program, for seniors 60 years and older, is funded by generous private partners and Muskegon County Senior Millage. Rules for the program are as follows:
• Muskegon County Residents only, age 60-plus
• Must provide complete information when registering – name, address, city/township, zip, age, county of residence,
• Registrants will receive $4 in tokens to spend on fruits and vegetables at the Muskegon Farmers Market,
Why Does Healthy Food Access Matter?
Are local kids from under-resourced neighborhoods getting enough healthy food?
Often, the answer is no.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service one in six kids live in food-insecure households, which means they aren’t getting enough to eat.
Their parents have to choose between buying groceries and paying for unexpected expenses, like car repairs or medical bills.
When parents can afford food, items that have high calories and low nutritional value are the ones that help stretch a limited budget the furthest. These difficult choices mean the whole family has a diet that is often too low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and too high in added sugars, sodium, and solid fats.
High blood pressure. Diabetes. Heart disease. Asthma. Depression. These are just some of the serious and costly health problems that are associated with poverty and food insecurity.
From mobile food pantries to health education that helps families maximize their food budgets and cook healthy meals, we support healthy eating habits so people in under-resourced neighborhoods and across the region can have better health outcomes. You can help make it easier for families to eat healthy on a budget. United Way of the Lakeshore supports local families by providing programs and partnering with local organizations listed above to increase availability and access to healthy foods to families in need. Healthy families mean healthy communities. When you help local families be healthier our entire community benefits.
You can join us as we take a stand against hunger. Give. Volunteer. Advocate. Live United.
United Way of the Lakeshore is uniting to inspire change and build thriving communities. Our Bold Goal – 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025. For more information, contact United Way of the Lakeshore at (231) 722-3134. Learn more about United Way of the Lakeshore at UnitedWayLakeshore.org, like the organization on Facebook and receive up to date information from Twitter at twitter.com/uwlakeshore.