Thumb Food Policy Council is changing lives with Last Food Mile project

  • Date: 11/03/2023

The Thumb Food Policy Council continues making a difference in the lives of seniors, veterans, and low-income children and families with the Last Food Mile project.

Almost two years after the original idea was made, a grant provided by the USDA and the Michigan Department of Education helped the TFPC begin its produce distribution project called the "Last Food Mile." The overall goal of this grant is to create a sustainability model so that at the end of the two-year grant, the group can continue providing produce.

"Currently, we are distributing 1,500 bags that contain 3 lbs of produce a week in the five counties," said project coordinator Melissa Deming. "The reason the bags are smaller is because our target population cannot lift much weight and many use walkers or canes, which limit their ability to carry large amounts. The feedback has been amazing, from a 95-year-old lady who couldn’t say thank you enough times to have fresh produce coming to her home weekly to an 85-year-old couple who had never tried fried zucchini and they loved it. If you are shopping for a loved one consider that. Something so simple is making people so happy. If you have extra to share, take some to a neighbor who might not be able to get out as easily as us."

The produce distributed is purchased from small- to medium-sized socially and economically disadvantaged farmers from all over. Most recently, the group partnered with Green Valley Organics out of Marlette as its main distribution center. Green Valley Organics consists of 12 Amish growers that supply produce to chain grocery stores across Michigan, including Whole Foods Market.

With the help of Green Valley Organics and Rievert Transportation, the group can give out fresh produce to all five counties in the Thumb; Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac, Lapeer, and St. Clair. Along with those groups, Michigan State University Extension and SNAP-Ed have played huge roles in the project to help provide education on the produce given. Public transportation systems such as Thumb Area Transit, Tuscola-Thumbody, and Sanilac Transportation have all helped distribute and deliver produce to senior living facilities, schools, enrichment centers, and senior meal sites.

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