MFC Outreach Director Sarah Monte (right) and Education Coordinator Amanda Latvala (left) at a Feeding America distribution site this summer.
Feeding America West Michigan (FAWM) sends monthly trucks to locations all around the Upper Peninsula to distribute food to people in need. FAWM recently performed a detailed assessment of their mobile pantry distribution program and learned that attendees wanted to learn more about how to prepare healthy meals with the ingredients they were receiving. FAWM, the Marquette Food Co-op (MFC), and the Northern Michigan University Center for Regional Health (NMUCRH) teamed up to create a food education program that would specifically serve attendees of the mobile pantry distribution.
Funding from the Superior Health Foundation has enabled the team to create this multi-faceted project with a virtual and in-person food education component that links food educators across the Upper Peninsula. Seven mobile pantry locations whose attendees indicated strong interest in food education were selected for live food demos or sampling. These locations include Marquette, Ishpeming, Newberry, Sault Ste. Marie, Manistique, Norway, and Ontonagon.
Comprehensive kitchen equipment kits were put together so that our partners had the tools necessary to prepare and serve the food.
At mobile pantry distributions throughout the summer and fall, our partners prepared food in certified kitchens and brought it to the pantry distribution so attendees could taste the prepared recipes. Depending on the location, our team of food educators would demonstrate recipe preparation, or move from car to car serving the featured recipe and chatting about how they prepared it.
This is a particularly fun and challenging partnership, as what food will arrive on the truck often isn’t known until twenty-four hours before the event. FAWM notifies the food educators of the products, and the team gets to work finding the right recipe that features food participants will be taking home that day. Recipients get a copy of the recipe so they can recreate the meal at home.
The MFC and Food for Life Nutrition services developed a suite of recipes tailored to the items most often delivered via the mobile pantry, so the demo team has resources ready to go. These recipes are housed on the NMUCRH website. NMUCRH also worked with the MFC to put together video demonstrations to accompany the recipes. These demonstrations and recipes are available to anyone and can be found at nmu.edu/ruralhealth/recipes.
The MFC provided staff for the demos at the Marquette and Ishpeming locations.
We used our experience with food demonstrations offsite to create equipment kits for each team of food educators at each location. NMUCRH, as an organization that serves the entire Upper Peninsula, travels frequently and was instrumental in dropping off the kits to our partners.
Preliminary evaluations indicate that the recipes are a big hit. For example, out of the 128 evaluations at the Marquette location, 115 people indicated they would make the recipe at home, with another 11 saying maybe they would make the dish at home. 119 people stated they would share the food and/or recipe with other people. It’s not just the participants enjoying the event. As one food educator said, “I loved getting to interact with so many people, cracking jokes and chatting with them. This filled my cup.”
We are thrilled to announce renewed funding for the Recipe for Success Program and are looking forward to another year of bringing food education to sites across the Upper Peninsula. Be sure to visit the NMUCRH site above to learn more about our partners and to try out some of the recipes in your own home!
*Article sponsored by the Marquette Food Co-op
Excerpted from the Winter ’22 – ’23 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.