Community residents and leaders are weighing in on how to create a grocery store pantry model to improve access to healthy foods in Benton Harbor, Public Policy Associates, Inc. (PPA) Senior Project Manager Nancy McCrohan told Michigan Good Food Summit attendees.
Dr. McCrohan shared the experience of engaging residents and other stakeholder groups in Benton Harbor in planning for an innovative food club that would lead to healthier lives for families in a community with high levels of poverty.
PPA is working with Feeding America West Michigan, one of the state’s seven major food banks, on a feasibility study for the project. The work is supported by a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
“It is definitely moving in a positive direction. We think the community is ready for it,” Dr. McCrohan said. “Once the food club is started, there needs to be a vigorous, ongoing community-engagement piece where the community has meaningful input on how it is working and their interest in wraparound services.”
The food club would be similar to a grocery store. Families would pay a nominal membership fee and receive points they can use to buy food. The pricing would encourage people to choose healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
The center could also be a site for wraparound services that promote health and prevent disease.
The proposal for a food club is aligned with the findings of a 2016 community health needs assessment, which identified food, obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions as major concerns.
Dr. McCrohan is an expert in food policy and has led extensive PPA efforts to assess policies and programs to support equitable access to healthy foods. For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-485-4477.