Last week Tuesday was a big day for hunger relief in West Michigan, but you can be excused if you didn’t notice. That’s because Jan. 27 was the soft opening of the Community Food Club of Greater Grand Rapids, based at Home Repair Services.
Rather than another food pantry or community kitchen, the Food Club is a membership-based, grocery-store-style resource providing educational programs and a wide variety of foods to Grand Rapids residents with incomes under 200 percent of poverty. Each member pays $10 per month and receives an allotment of points based on household size that can be redeemed for groceries.
Food Club members must be referred by a founding partner; the partners are Westminster Presbyterian Church/Downtown Food Pantry, United Church Outreach Ministry, Salvation Army Social Services, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Access of West Michigan and Home Repair Services.
Twelve members visited the Food Club on its first day. One of them, Robert, was shopping for himself and his wife. He filled his cart with a bag of apples, a dozen eggs, canned vegetables, bagels, peanut butter, a large box of cereal and a bottle of honey, among other things.
“It’s clean. I like that. It’s set up really nice,” he said of the Food Club. “Our income is very limited, so this helps a lot. This is a blessing.”
For people like Robert who have some income but still struggle with food insecurity, the Food Club provides a way to give as well as receive. That provides members with a greater sense of ownership, an aspect that drew programs manager Holly Anderson to the project when she first heard about it.
“I think what’s magical about the Food Club is it’s promoting food security, along with consumer choice and dignity, and those three dynamics together are a really strong force in improving the food landscape in Grand Rapids,” she said.
Feeding America West Michigan provides most of the groceries available at the Food Club, and Food Bank staff will be assisting with the programming throughout the Food Club’s first three pilot years.
Learn more at communityfoodclubgr.org.