PONTIAC – Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, with support from the Board of Commissioners, announced a $700,000 food aid grant today at the Oak Park Farmers Market to help eligible families obtain nutritious food as prices for 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 money for fresh produce at farmers’ markets for people who qualify for food assistance.
“Our goal here is to reach any resident of Oakland County who is food insecure,” Coulter said. “We don’t want our families to skimp on other necessities, like rent, utilities or medicine, so they can make sure they don’t go hungry.”
The Pontiac Community Foundation and Lighthouse will implement $350,000 in food assistance grants. Lighthouse will use the money to support its emergency food aid. Emergency food has been provided to about 5,000 families every week since the start of the epidemic. The Pontiac Community Foundation will provide grants of up to $50,000 to small and medium-sized organizations that are not traditional food providers but have found themselves in this role during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
“We are very grateful for Oakland County’s commitment to providing critical food assistance to residents,” said Dustin McClellan, CEO of the Pontiac Community Foundation. “With the pandemic spreading and the cost of living continuing to rise, many families are still struggling to make ends meet. We look forward to partnering with food providers across the province, to provide help and support where it is needed most.”
The Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved this appropriation of US Rescue Plan Act dollars for the Food Access Initiative and the doubling of the Food Cash Program during its June 23 meeting. Both programs aim to meet critical needs to address food security and increase access to healthy food.
“The county has done its job once again by stepping in and helping people and organizations in its community,” said Commissioner Yolanda Smith Charles, who is from Southfield and is part of Oak Park. “My fellow commissioners and I have been happy to support a program that increases access to healthy food for our residents, especially since we are all seeing soaring prices at the grocery store.”
Coulter also announced that the county is participating in the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions Initiative to conduct a comprehensive healthy food system landscape study that will look at everything from Oakland County’s healthy food systems and providers, to the role urban farms and farmers play in providing nutritious food to families. The study will also examine transportation routes and how it may be difficult for some families to get to groceries.
“In Michigan’s richest county, more than 11% of our children are listed as food insecure, up from 8%
Before the pandemic, not just in cities with greater numbers of poor,” Coulter said
The Oakland County Health Department has several food assistance programs established in the community. These include:
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a supplement program that provides nutritional benefits, nutrition, breastfeeding education and support for pregnant women and children under five. WIC Project Fresh provides a $25 brochure containing $5 vouchers to WIC participants. These coupons can be used through October 31 at licensed farmers’ markets and roadside stalls across Michigan, including the Oak Park Farmers Market that hosted today’s announcement.
- The Healthy Oakland Partnership coordinates Family Day and Senior Market events at local farmers markets to promote healthy eating and support local agriculture by distributing $5 vouchers to people age 60 or older, who have a Michigan Bridge Card, and WIC participants to spend at markets participating farmers.
- The Oakland Health District’s prescription links unsafe and at-risk residents with chronic disease to coupons that can be spent on fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets and grocery stores. The program works with participants’ health care providers to address chronic health conditions through education and food vouchers.
“At the Department of Health, we work hard to educate the community about the benefits of healthy foods and the positive impact on quality of life and health,” said Calandra Green, Oakland County Health Officer. “Eating healthy food can improve a person’s ability to learn and work effectively while reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.”