STURGIS, MICH., June 15, 2020— The Sturgis Area Community Foundation was awarded a $70,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund in support of expanding the Fresh Food Initiative throughout St. Joseph County.
The Fresh Food Initiative currently provides fresh produce, dairy products, baked goods, and meat at six community locations throughout St. Joseph County. Under normal conditions, each distribution event typically serves up to 150 households per site, though in recent months the program has doubled its distribution numbers to respond to the COVID pandemic.
“The community partners involved with this initiative submitted the grant application prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, knowing that access to fresh and healthy food was a high need then,” says James Hissong, Grant Writer for the Sturgis Area Community Foundation. “In the last two months, St. Joseph County's unemployment rate has skyrocketed from 3.2% in February to over 30% in April, making the initiative that much more critical.”
In St. Joseph County, the initiative relies on collaboration between the South Michigan Food Bank, the United Way, and multiple partners that serve as host sites for fresh food distribution efforts, including the City of Sturgis, Fabius Township, Burr Oak Community Schools, Colon Community Schools, White Pigeon Community Schools, First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers, and Centreville Seventh Day Adventist Church.
“With the support of local donors, volunteers and organizations like the St. Joseph County United Way, local host sites have assisted thousands who would otherwise struggle to access fresh food, and keep food on the table at home,” says Lindsay Richardson, Executive Director of Sturgis Area Community Foundation. “We are thrilled to use this grant to strengthen their efforts and provide the additional support they deserve.”
With the grant, Richardson shares host sites will receive funding to cover the costs of one food distribution event per month for two years. Over the course of the two-year period, the Foundation aims to support local host sites and groups in building the funding needed to sustain the program after the grant period. The grant will also provide additional funding to aid sites in marketing Fresh Food Initiative events and provide cooking supplies and nutrition education to participants.
“The Fresh Food Distribution program is an effective way to disperse fresh food and nutrition information to those who need it. This grant is a great opportunity for those struggling with food insecurity to receive much-needed fresh produce. It allows for our partner agencies to make a greater impact to reach thousands of families throughout St. Joseph County,” says Peter Vogel, CEO of South Michigan Food Bank.