Food Assistance Grants In Oakland County Announced

Pontiac, Michigan – Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, with the support of the Board of Commissioners, announced $700,000 in food assistance grants Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at the Oak Park Farmers Market to help eligible families access nutritious food as the prices of fruits, vegetables, milk, and other staples continue to rise.

The county is also allocating $250,000 to the Double Up Food Bucks program, which doubles the money for fresh produce at farmers markets for people eligible for food assistance.

"Our goal here is to reach any Oakland County resident struggling with food insecurity," Coulter said. "We don't want our families to scrimp on other essentials, like rent or utilities or medicines, so they can make sure they don't go hungry."

The Pontiac Community Foundation and Lighthouse each will implement $350,000 in food assistance grants. Lighthouse will utilize the funds to bolster its emergency food assistance. It has provided emergency food to approximately 5,000 households each week since the beginning of the pandemic. The Pontiac Community Foundation will provide grants of up to $50,000 to small to midsize organizations that aren't traditional food providers but found themselves in that role during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

"We are overwhelmingly grateful for Oakland County's commitment to provide critical food assistance for residents," Pontiac Community Foundation CEO Dustin McLellan said. "As the pandemic rages on and cost-of-living expenses continue to rise, many families are still struggling to have their basic needs met.  We look forward to partnering with food providers across the county, to provide help and support where it's needed most."

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved this allocation of American Rescue Plan Act dollars for the food access initiative and Double Up Food Bucks program during its June 23 meeting. Both programs aim to address the critical needs to address food security and increase access to healthy food.

"The county has once again done its job by stepping in and helping the people and organizations of its community," Commissioner Yolanda Smith Charles, who is from Southfield and represents part of Oak Park, said. "My fellow commissioners and I were happy to support a program that is increasing access to healthy food for our residents, especially as all of us are seeing increasing prices at the grocery store."

Coulter also announced that the county is partnering with the Poverty Solutions Initiative at the University of Michigan to conduct a comprehensive healthy food system landscape study which will look at everything from healthy food systems and providers in Oakland County, to the role that urban farms and farmers play in getting nutritious food to families. The study will also examine transportation routes and how it might be a challenge for some families to have access to grocery stores.

"In the wealthiest county in Michigan, more than 11 percent of our children are listed as food insecure, up from 8 percent before the pandemic, and it's not just in the cities with greater poverty numbers that are affected," Coulter said.

Oakland County Health Division has several established food assistance programs in the community. These include:

  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a supplemental program that provides food benefits, nutrition and breastfeeding education and support to pregnant women and children under five. WIC Project Fresh provides a $25 booklet containing $5 coupons to WIC participants. These coupons can be used through Oct. 31 at authorized farmers markets and roadside stands throughout Michigan, including at the Oak Park Farmers Market which hosted today's announcement.
  • Healthy Oakland Partnership coordinates Family and Senior Market Day events at local farmers markets to promote healthy eating and support local agriculture by distributing $5 coupons to people 60 years or older, those who have a Michigan Bridge card, and WIC participants to spend at participating farmers markets.
  • Prescription for a Healthy Oakland County connects residents who are foo insecure and at risk for chronic disease to vouchers that can be spent on fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets and grocery stores. The program works with participants' healthcare providers to address chronic health conditions through education and the food vouchers.

"At the Health Division we work diligently to educate the community about the benefits of healthy foods and the positive impact on quality of life and health," Oakland County Health Officer Calandra Green said.  "Eating healthy can improve a person's ability to learn and work effectively while reducing the risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease."

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