Feeding the hungry

Tommy McDoniel, pastor of Flint: Asbury UMC, gets personally involved in the community garden project that improves nutrition in the neighborhood. ~Facebook/Flint: Asbury UMC

34 United Methodist churches responded to a survey of Michigan food pantries.

LANSING, Michigan –The Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF) has released a new report sharing the perspectives of 260 Michigan food pantries – including 34 United Methodist churches.

The report, on emergency food distribution, gardening, and nutrition education, is a preliminary study of opportunities and barriers to improving the diets, health and well-being of emergency food recipients at Michigan’s 3,100 pantries – over 80% of them operated by communities of faith. The study was commissioned by MFF and conducted by Barna Research of Ventura, CA.

The survey included two questions: 1)  What opportunities and barriers do emergency food providers face in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to emergency food recipients? and 2)  How willing and able are emergency food providers to implement specific policy, systems, and environmental changes that increase fresh produce availability and consumption?

The perspectives of 260 organizations with food pantries are represented in the final report.

Recommendations for stakeholders in the faith, sustainable-food-systems, and hunger relief communities include public health- and development-based approaches to “satisfying the hungry with good things.” Recommendations will also inform Michigan Fitness Foundation programming and project collaboration.

The key findings:

  1. Most emergency food pantries are faith-based and have provided similar services for decades; only recently have some pantries begun to garden.
  2. Most emergency food pantries distribute at least some fresh produce, but quality and availability remain issues.
  3. Emergency food pantries face significant supply- and demand-side barriers to increasing fresh produce distribution.
  4. Gardening is not a common activity among emergency food providers, but those pantries which do garden reap the benefits.
  5. Few emergency food providers also provide nutrition education, but interest in nutrition education is high.
  6. Pantries rarely engage in policy work or advocacy, but there is significant interest in these approaches.

To download the report and sign up for future updates related to this work, click here.

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