Flint Fresh, a community organization based in Flint, Michigan, is working to combat food apartheid by increasing healthy food access to the city’s residents.
Founded in 2016, the organization launched with the Flint Fresh Mobile Market, a bus driving to multiple neighborhoods selling fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2019, the organization created two more initiatives: the Veggie Box program, a vegetable delivery program, and the Wholesale and Processing Kitchen, a kitchen preparing meals for schools and senior citizens in need.
The three programs source many of their products from local and regional farms. They also accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Double Up Food Bucks, a state-wide program in Michigan doubling the value of SNAP benefits to help people purchase more fruits and vegetables.
“Consumers are thrilled to receive fresh food items,” Brian Schorr, the Executive Director of Flint Fresh tells Food Tank. “They are sincerely grateful to receive fresh fruits and vegetables and we are more than happy to [help].”
Dr. Laura Schmitt Olabisi, an associate professor at Michigan State University (MSU) tells Food Tank that “Flint is a very resilient city with a high degree of community activism and philanthropic involvement.” But she says much of the community activism emerges in response to a lack of financial investment in Flint.
In 2014, the local government of Flint switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River in an effort to save money, according to the City Council meeting minutes. This switch caused a spike in lead levels, which led to an increase in miscarriages, fetal deaths, and neurological and behavioral problems in children.
A recent report from the Worcester Food Policy Council found that eating a nutritious diet can help mitigate the damage caused by lead. But, according to Bob Brown, a community activist in Flint, the city is enduring a food apartheid, which makes it difficult for individuals to access healthy foods—however, Flint Fresh is aiming to change this.
While the organization suspended the Mobile Market program during COVID-19, Schorr tells Food Tank that the other programs are “doing exceptionally well.”
In addition to retail sales, Flint Fresh delivered over 10,000 free Veggie Boxes and bags containing milk, eggs, and meat to people in need. The wholesale processing kitchen is also preparing and delivering meals to senior citizens.
And the organization is partnering with local schools, like Educare Flint, to provide children nutritious meals and educate them on the importance of eating healthily. One worker estimates that the program has processed nearly 14,000 kilograms of produce for Flint schools.
While these partnerships can help with Flint’s food apartheid, Schorr ultimately wants to see the local government invest in the city’s food system by supporting small scale farmers and agricultural education. He also encourages consumers to support their local food system—“it will support you in return.”
Photo courtesy of Ben Libby, Unsplash