Food desert: an area that lacks easy access to affordable, nutritious food
Much of South Michigan Food Bank’s service area is made up of these food deserts. Living in these areas could mean driving long distances to a grocery store, having limited methods of transportation, stretching the groceries at home to last longer between trips, or going out to eat often. But not everyone can afford the long trip to the store or stopping at restaurants when the pantry at home is empty.
More than just a lack of grocery store selection, food deserts lack fresh food. Fresh food, already unaffordable to some, becomes impossible in a food desert. A box of mac & cheese is a safe bet, a $1 investment with a two-year shelf life that’s easily accessible at almost any store, even Dollar Stores or Walgreens. It’s a risk to buy fresh green beans; they last about a week, aren’t a full meal, and are more expensive than their shelf-stable counterparts. And you might have to travel for them.
Fresh Food Distributions: they provide, on average, 20 pounds of fresh produce, dairy, meat, and bakery items to each family. These 20 pounds work to erase this risk, to ensure that everyone in South Michigan can supplement their meals with easily accessible fresh foods, not make sacrifices.
Our Fresh Food Distribution (FFD) in Tekonsha is an amazing example of how the South Michigan community steps up to make sure that everyone can have fresh food. Pat, who runs this distribution, says that the closest thing they get to fresh food access in Tekonsha is the local Subway. Aside from fast food joints and diners, the only store in their town is Dollar General, which doesn’t sell fresh food or produce.
“When I first proposed starting a food distribution,” Pat says, “I had in my mind a local church parking lot because it was the biggest parking area I could think of at the time. I proposed the idea at a Village Council meeting, and one of the members was the local Fire Chief, Daryl Cummins. Daryl spoke right up and said, ‘You know, we could do this at the fire station where people could drive right through the station and pick up their food.’ No inclement weather to have to deal with.”
Since the start of the FFD in January 2021, they have distributed over 13 tons of fresh food in over 1000 boxes. Like the Fire Department, other community members have come together to make the distribution as fruitful as it can be. One local farmer who started a roadside produce stand got involved in the Fresh Food Distribution in October. Knowing he had surplus watermelons and that many families may not be able to afford them, he provided a trailer-full to the distribution!
“Here is an example of what great community members we have,” Pat says. “One very kind man comes to each month early and walks to get his food because that is his transportation. He doesn’t just wait for food, he has helped us set up for everyone else in line. He epitomizes what Tekonsha’s little town with the big heart is all about. Our regular volunteers include people from throughout the community are firefighters, church members and leaders, local community club members and neighbors just wanting to lend a hand.”
Our thanks to the whole Tekonsha community for providing hope in their desert.