Consumers Energy, food banks and Grace Health partner to address food insecurity in Battle Creek

Posted on Category:Healthy Food

Having access to quality food is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but that’s a challenge for many people in Battle Creek. 

To help more people get the food they need, Consumers Energy is partnering with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the South Michigan Food Bank and Grace Health to fund mobile food distribution sites and a food pharmacy in Battle Creek. 

Through the food pharmacy, 350 Grace Health patients who don’t have access to enough healthy food and are managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, will get a prescription for two weeks of fresh food twice a month for six months. 

The Consumers Energy Foundation provided $200,000 to the Food Bank Council of Michigan to address food insecurity. 

“Consumers Energy is committed to being part of the solution as Michiganders work toward brighter days ahead this year,” said Garrick Rochow, Consumers Energy’s president and CEO in a press release. “These are extraordinary times, and we are humbled to play a part in supporting organizations that are doing so much for our communities.”



a person in a military uniform: Specialist Emily Garza unpacks food donations on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek, Mich. Consumers Energy, Michigan Food Council, the South Michigan Food Bank and Grace Health are working together to fund more mobile food distribution sites and a food pharmacy in Battle Creek.


© Alyssa Keown | The Battle Creek Enquirer
Specialist Emily Garza unpacks food donations on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek, Mich. Consumers Energy, Michigan Food Council, the South Michigan Food Bank and Grace Health are working together to fund more mobile food distribution sites and a food pharmacy in Battle Creek.

The funding supports mobile food distribution sites in Battle Creek. The Michigan Health Endowment Fund is providing funding for the pilot food pharmacy program at Grace Health in partnership with the South Michigan Food Bank, and Consumers Energy will support the kick off of the program. 

“This is a really exciting way for us to partner to address food insecurity in Battle Creek,” said Dawn Opel, the director of research and strategic initiatives for the Food Bank Council of Michigan. 



a man standing in front of a box truck: Senior Airman Steven Snyder and 2nd Lt. Hunter Morgan Thelen distribute food to vehicles on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek, Mich. Consumers Energy, Michigan Food Council, the South Michigan Food Bank and Grace Health are working together to fund more mobile food distribution sites and a food pharmacy in Battle Creek.


© Alyssa Keown | The Battle Creek Enquirer
Senior Airman Steven Snyder and 2nd Lt. Hunter Morgan Thelen distribute food to vehicles on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek, Mich. Consumers Energy, Michigan Food Council, the South Michigan Food Bank and Grace Health are working together to fund more mobile food distribution sites and a food pharmacy in Battle Creek.

As part of the program, patients will also receive basic kitchen supplies to make sure they have what they need to prepare the food, including can openers, food storage containers, a saucepan and a chef’s knife. 

“It’s really a nutrition intervention,” Opel said. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, food banks have seen an unprecedented level of need, Opel said. 

Statewide, food banks saw an immediate increase in client demand last March. At first, the need was due to congregate meals no longer being served at senior centers and in other institutional settings, but over the past 10 months, it has shifted to people who have lost their jobs and to families with children, Opel said. 

“We’re still seeing about a 70{6339095b8ff4371e80c293520f74ccd4c0488f11a7aed6d0daae87ff5630195b} increase in the amount of food we’re distributing statewide over last year to date,” Opel said. Projections suggest  “that elevated need will remain through 2021 and into 2022.” 

The need in Battle Creek has steadily grown during the last year, according to the South Michigan Food Bank. 

The nonprofit distributed record amounts of food in 2020, providing more than 14 million pounds of food for people in Calhoun, Barry, Branch, Hillsdale, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lenawee, and St. Joseph counties. That’s nearly a 60{6339095b8ff4371e80c293520f74ccd4c0488f11a7aed6d0daae87ff5630195b} increase from 2019.  

In Battle Creek alone, the food bank distributed 3.3 million pounds of food in 2020, which is a 145{6339095b8ff4371e80c293520f74ccd4c0488f11a7aed6d0daae87ff5630195b} increase from 2019. 

“We could not have done what we did this year without the volunteers, the food pantries, our agencies, just the community all coming together,” said Summer Sunnock, advancement director at the South Michigan Food Bank. 



a car parked on the side of a snow covered road: Vehicles line up for food distribution on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek, Mich. Consumers Energy, Michigan Food Council, the South Michigan Food Bank and Grace Health are working together to fund more mobile food distribution sites and a food pharmacy in Battle Creek.


© Alyssa Keown | The Battle Creek Enquirer
Vehicles line up for food distribution on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek, Mich. Consumers Energy, Michigan Food Council, the South Michigan Food Bank and Grace Health are working together to fund more mobile food distribution sites and a food pharmacy in Battle Creek.

Sunnock said local food pantries expect the need to continue to be higher than they were before the pandemic throughout 2021, so the partnership with Consumers Energy, the Food Bank Council of Michigan and Grace Health is coming at a critical time 

“It’s really exciting to have more opportunities to reach more people and provide that fresh food, and the nutritious foods that people need,” Sunnock said. 

The food pharmacy program at Grace Health will start in February. Later this month, Grace Health will host a fresh food distribution in its parking lot to promote the program. 

The fresh food pharmacy will be a pilot program this year for the Food Bank Council of Michigan and its partners. It’s based on a model run by Henry Ford Health Systems in Detroit that has been running for three years. Henry Ford Health Systems credits the program with reducing emergency room visits by 42{6339095b8ff4371e80c293520f74ccd4c0488f11a7aed6d0daae87ff5630195b} and hospitalizations by 56{6339095b8ff4371e80c293520f74ccd4c0488f11a7aed6d0daae87ff5630195b} among participants. 

If the pilot program in Battle Creek is a success, Opel said the Food Bank Council of Michigan hopes to replicate it in other areas across the state. 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing this become more of the way that we get through to people in need because health care obviously has a huge investment in seeing people be healthy, and we know food is a huge part of that,” she said. 

The South Michigan Food Bank distributes food at 23 different locations in Battle Creek. Information about distribution locations, volunteering and donating is available online at smfoodbank.org or by calling (269) 964-3663. 

Correction: The Michigan Health Endowment Fund is providing funding for the food pharmacy. Consumers Energy is providing funding for the kickoff of fresh food distribution and patient kitchen supply kits for the pharmacy. 

Contact reporter Elena Durnbaugh at (269) 243-5938 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh

This article originally appeared on Battle Creek Enquirer: Food pharmacy: Consumers Energy, food banks and Grace Health partner to address food insecurity in Battle Creek

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