Dillon Davis, Battle Creek Enquirer
For low-income families, there are known barriers to eating healthy.
"Healthy food is not the most inexpensive," said Patty Parker, the Food Bank of South Central Michigan's director of agency relations. "And it's not what people think to give away."
However, through the Michigan Food Bank Access to Nutrition program, the Food Bank hopes to bridge the gap for hundreds of local households with fresh food and education. Dozens of area residents waited in line Friday morning as the Food Bank hosted its 100th access program event at Mike’s Place, the former Post Elementary School, in Battle Creek.
The event provided needy families with fresh fruit and vegetables along with chicken, bread, potatoes, desserts and its most-popular dish, sweet potato chili. The Food Bank also offers the recipes for fresh meals families can make at home.
"We wouldn’t be doing so many of them if we didn’t get a great response and we do," Parker said. "When we go back to sites again, people go, ‘That was a great recipe. I gave this a try. I shared it with somebody else.’ It’s wonderful to see them excited to learn ways to prepare the food we’re giving them."
The access program represents the combined partnership with Michigan Food Banks, the Food Bank Council of Michigan and FireKeepers Casino Hotel. The Food Bank has hosted access events in all eight of the counties it serves. FireKeepers works with the Food Bank to provide support, education and the food product to distribute to the community, according to Michael McFarlen, vice president of food and beverage at FireKeepers.
McFarlen said FireKeepers participated in 58 of the access events in the past calendar year, providing assistance to more than 20,000 families. Through this, McFarlen said, he's able to put his passion for food and nutrition to proper use in the community.
"I feel, and my upper management and the CEO and the tribe feels, it's an obligation and a commitment to the community to give back, and we do it willingly," McFarlen said. "This, to us, is a blast to come out here. It's a blast to talk to people in the community that we operate a business in.
"For us, it's being able to show people how to take fresh food and create a healthy meal for their family."
Those at Friday's event came with baskets and wagons and laundry baskets to fill to the brim with food items.
One of those people was a Battle Creek woman who asked to be referred to only as Peggy. She said her family has been going through a "tough time we didn't anticipate" with mortgage problems that led to bankruptcy.
At this point, she said, she's just hoping to get through another year.
Of Friday's event, Peggy said the fresh food offerings are essential to "help you fill the spot of income you don't have and get some of the things you really can't afford to go out and buy."
"I think it is God's hands that are helping us," she said. "And it's our job to help others."
More information about the Food Bank of South Central Michigan is available online at foodbankofscm.org or by contacting the Food Bank at 964-3663.