The Downtown Market has become a community favorite in the three months since opening. Numerous community leaders and businesses have leveraged that popularity and collaborated on programs and events at the Market. The Downtown Market is arguably the new hub of local food innovation in Grand Rapids. Thus, what better way for the largest players in the region to showcase their vision and mission.
Cue Spectrum Health and their Healthier Communities initiatives. Healthier Communities aims to improve the health of community members throughout West Michigan. Spectrum Health strategizes this goal by: “improving access to health care, building healthier families, and connecting community members to resources.”
Specifically, Spectrum Health has begun a new program partnership with the Downtown Market. The program, ‘Healthy Eating For All,’ provides vouchers to families for shopping at the Market through Spectrum Health grants. In detail, the ‘produce bucks’ vouchers are available to shop at City Produce within the Downtown Market. Individuals are eligible for the vouchers (and bus passes to the market) by applying for a scholarship class at the Market that focuses on healthy cooking.
Director of Healthier Communities at Spectrum Health, Erin Inman, stresses the importance of addressing this discrepancy head on: “A lack of access to fresh, healthy foods can contribute to poor diets and higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases. When underserved communities connect with regional producers and food businesses, the connection can expand marketing opportunities for producers, drive the growth of new local businesses and jobs, and increase healthy food access.”
Inman explains, “[‘Healthy Eating For All’] supports increased access and assistance with the cost of obtaining fresh produce by providing coupons, transportation assistance, and educational classes focused on nutrition to supplement other Market classes on health and wellness.”
Furthermore, the funding from Spectrum Health for these types of initiatives is “delineated and dedicated to meeting the nutrition needs of the underserved community. It is meant to supplement other food resources in the area,” says Inman. The Downtown Market also accepts SNAP and WIC program cards.
The area in which the Downtown Market is located is considered a food desert within the underserved Grand Rapids community. The three adjacent neighborhoods to the Market are low-income areas and in relative proximity to area shelters. Spectrum Health’s Healthier Communities combats this challenge by focusing on the benefits of good nutrition, support, and education for applicable individuals.
What programs does your community implement for the underserved neighborhoods?
Photo credit: lincolnblues