Detroit group using $1M for food aid amid COVID-19 pandemic  

By: - November 13, 2020 8:55 am

Maiden House Ministries in Highland Park food distribution early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, March 19, 2020 | Ken Coleman

A Detroit nonprofit agency has been awarded a $1 million state grant to help Michiganders residents offset food access struggles exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Detroit Food Policy Council (DFPC) will launch Food Secure Detroit, a wide-reaching effort designed to empower eight agencies to provide meals, give residents access to fresh produce, offer cooking lessons and provide other food programs to assist those hardest hit by the virus.

“Many Detroiters struggle with food insecurity and limited access to healthy, fresh foods – that is not new; but it certainly became profoundly more challenging as people were forced out of work or forced to stay indoors due to COVID-19,” said Winona Bynum, DFPC executive director. “This grant will allow us and our partners to connect those most in need with not only food for the short term, but with ways to stretch meals and food dollars for the long term.”

The program is a direct outcome of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities that was created by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in April. The task force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, has focused on the disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 cases in the African-American community. During the early months of the pandemic, 40% of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths were Black.

“Gov. Whitmer and I remain fully committed to protecting public health for all Michiganders as we continue to combat COVID-19, and we must not let our guard down as cases and deaths trend upward,” said Gilchrist, who has lost 24 people in his life to coronavirus. “The pandemic has highlighted the staggering impact inequality has on the health of people of color, especially in the Black community, where the lives and livelihoods of our friends and family has been disproportionately impacted by the virus.” 

The partnership with DFPC, Gilchrist said, is a prime example of how this task force is helping our local communities and making a real, lasting impact.

Food Secure Detroit will empower at least eight agencies to address food access limitations brought on by the COVID-19 virus. 

Oakland Avenue Farm will deliver food boxes and provide cooking classes. Keep Growing Detroit will provide plants that can be grown indoors, food boxes and cooking classes. Detroit Food Academy will provide youth food classes and cooking supplies. Eastern Market Corporation will provide personal protection equipment to market businesses. Make Food Not Waste, along with local restaurants, will provide 5,000 Thanksgiving meals to 1,000 families as well as cooking supplies and classes.

Jerry Ann Hebron, North End Christian Community Development Corporation and Oakland Avenue Farm executive director, said that her organization has been feeding families since March. The grant will allow her organization to continue to provide food to those still impacted by COVID-19.

Danielle Todd, executive director of Make Food Not Waste, said that food insecurity rates are going up.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing what we can to support local families,” Todd said.

The grant, which will fund food programming through the end of 2020, will discuss with Detroit residents about ways to access federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars. 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.