Produce for People
For families struggling to make ends meet, food pantries are often the only source of important ingredients for a well-balanced diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, for example, are often bypassed in the grocery store because their cost is too great. In this way, food pantries are uniquely situated to positively influence the eating habits of their clients—many of whom are affected by diet-related illnesses, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Others are simply unaware of the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables in their own diet and for the healthy development of their growing children.
That's why Manna launched its "Produce for People" initiative—a community-wide effort to improve the quality and nutritional value of the food made available to our food outlets. Through generous community support from the Charlevoix Community Foundation, the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, Char-Em United Way and Great Lakes Energy People Fund, Manna purchases local, farm-fresh produce at or below wholesale prices and distributes it free-of-charge to partner pantries.
The initiative has enabled Manna to contract for over 100,000 pounds of locally sourced produce since 2017. In all, the effort has proven to be a win-win-win.
- Manna can depend on a consistent source of farm-fresh produce to distribute.
- The initiative supports our local farming community.
- Our clients improve their diets and overall health.
Nutrition Education and Cooking Classes
Above all else, “Produce for People” has helped to improve the daily diet of those among us who need it most. Manna works with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, and MSU Extension to develop educational materials for food pantry clients. These handouts include healthy eating tips, “Harvest of the Month” recipes, and informational handouts about how to store and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.
Together with these partners, we have also conducted several crock-pot and blender cooking classes for over 400 pantry clients. Participants learn safe knife skills and how to customize a nutritious recipe to their personal tastes. Each client brings home a new crock-pot or blender, a three-piece kitchen knife set, vegetable peeler, cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, colander, refrigerator thermometer, spatula, and fresh ingredients to prepare several easy-to-make recipes.
Class participants have loved our classes. Here are some of the things they’ve said in our follow-up surveys:
- “I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and hands-on interaction.”
- “I never knew you could do so much with a blender!”
- “It was fun!”
As mentioned in Groundwork’s article here, Northern Michigan is one of the most agriculturally rich regions in the United States. Yet, a large proportion of Michigan households face significant barriers to buying this fresh produce and living a healthy life. Michigan is in the top third nationally when it comes to excess weight, with 31 percent of adults and 17 percent of children being obese, and much of our population also suffers from chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The following videos highlight how Manna and other area organizations come together as part of a holistic effort to make our community a better place.