Michigan Farm to Family Project Provides Local Fruits and Vegetables to Grand Rapids Families in Need

Churches and community food partners connect farmers with families through Michigan Fitness Foundation/USDA investment in local food systems

Hundreds of Kent County families receiving food assistance will have access to fresh produce straight from local farms this year. The Michigan Farm to Family project is a new effort to support Michigan’s agricultural economy and make more fresh fruits and vegetables available to people in need.

“Michigan Fitness Foundation programs and products successfully increased fruit and vegetable consumption and can help contribute to significant market growth for local farmers in Michigan,” said James J. Tighe, the Fitness Foundation CEO. “By taking this approach in Kent County we can support local agriculture through smart, upstream investments that can help reduce hunger, obesity and chronic illness in Michigan citizens.”

The Michigan Farm to Family Project uses a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.  Through this model, CSA shareholders pay-for and receive a weekly share of fresh produce from local farms, during the growing season. Five participating Access of West Michigan faith-based food pantries and several West Michigan Growers Group farmers will benefit from this partnership.

“Many Michiganders face limited access to our abundant supply of fresh produce,” said Justin Fast, Social Initiative Specialist and Project Co-Director at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. “The Farm To Family CSA model helps bridge the gap – improving food access for low-income consumers while providing tangible benefits to the local economy and public health.”

The Farm To Family Project is supported by matching investments from the Michigan Fitness Foundation, local partners, and a National Institute of Food and Agriculture Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant from the USDA. The matching investments are used to help low-income families in Kent County purchase CSA shares at the beginning of the Michigan growing season.

“Access to fresh produce and nutrition education go hand in hand,” said Dr. Marci Scott, Vice President of Health Programs and Project Co-Director at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. “CSA shareholders consume a greater number and variety of fruits and vegetables than non-CSA shareholders – a major litmus test for overall diet quality and prevention of diet-related chronic disease.”

The Michigan Farm To Family pilot project is a collaborative effort  focused on connecting multiple State and Federal education and food incentive programs that further increase fruit and vegetable consumption -- growing the purchasing power of local agriculture and improving overall family health. For more information about the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program go to https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAOC/bulletins/14e1fa8.