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State grant helps sweet potatoes, other frozen produce get to Flint food banks

Apr 22, 2016

Volunteers weigh and bag frozen, diced sweet potatoes bound for Flint and other cities.
Credit Andrew Steiner / Feeding America West Michigan

Michigan is boosting efforts to provide healthy food to Flint residents amid the city's crisis with lead-tainted water.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced Thursday it's awarding $100,000 to Feeding America West Michigan.

Feeding America West Michigan’s Andrew Steiner says they knew there was a food processor north of Grand Rapids willing to donate frozen produce; squash, blueberries, cherries, asparagus and more.

“The amount of food that Arbre Farms was able to donate was actually more than we were able to handle,” Steiner said.

Steiner says the bulk of the state grant paid for a freezer truck to haul the produce. They worked with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan to split the produce, and send much of it to Flint. 

Doctors are urging Flint residents to a healthy diet, to limit the effects of lead exposure.

This month, the truck will start taking frozen fruits and veggies donated from a processing plant in northern Michigan down to Flint.

Up to two million pounds a year will go to counties across the state from this one food processor

“There is an incredible abundance of produce in our state and there are a lot of companies that we don’t yet have relationships with,” Steiner said. “We’re hopeful once the Arbre Farms partnership gets up and running we can take that model to other freezers in the state and do the same thing.”

Other organizations getting grants include the Delta Institute, the Wayne County Airport Authority and Love INC of the Tri-Cities.