New community-focused hours showcase need to accelerate access to fresh produce for more area families, individuals
TAYLOR – As part of the Fish & Loaves Community Food Pantry’s nearly 13-year commitment to “Ensuring No One Goes Hungry” and improving access to healthy and nutritious food, the pantry has debuted its Saturday Fresh Market.
The Fresh Market is in operation from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays since its debut on Oct. 17. These additional pantry hours at 25670 Northline Road do not replace the regular hours and days of service, but add to the total hours and days of operation, Fish & Loaves Executive Director Mary Hollens said.
The market is designed to help those with low incomes who work and cannot fit into standard weekday pantry hours. Hollens said the market fills the need for fresh produce and basic foods such as eggs, milk, a variety of fresh fruits and other items.
Each month, Fish & Loaves sees hundreds of children under the age of 18 come through the pantry doors with their families. Last year, the pantry welcomed 16,000 individuals. The need has grown through the COVID-19 global pandemic and additional unemployment. By reconfiguring the pantry for Saturdays, Hollens said, Fish & Loaves will help more families and individuals.
The market start is made possible by a donation from the 2/42 Community Church Taylor Campus. Fish & Loaves spends $20,000 to $25,000 every month on food purchases. With the addition of Saturday hours, people can visit every weekend, with no appointment needed, and pick up food.
Linda, a Fish & Loaves client who attended the Fresh Market opening day, called the new weekend distribution “a true blessing that provides more than I expected and exactly what I needed: fresh produce.”
Like the weekday pantry, the Saturday Fresh Market is hosted by volunteers who will help those who need a little help. Visitors simply drive up to the pantry and take home a container of fresh produce and other goods. Because of the shorter hours on Saturday, Hollens said, it will help Fish & Loaves recruit volunteers who may have a bit of time to help out at the market over the weekend.
Hollens said Fish & Loaves plans to reach out to companies and community groups to volunteer on a Saturday and will brand the market on that day for their organization. To volunteer, contact the pantry at 734-992-6284.
Fish & Loaves’ food partners on the Saturday Fresh Market are Gleaners Community Food Bank, Forgotten Harvest and the Ford Fund, which has supplied transportation to pick up food for the market. Because of the Meijer “Simply Give” program and support from friends of Fish & Loaves, pantry volunteers are using Meijer gift cards to purchase eggs that are not always available at the pantry.
“The Saturday Fresh Market, besides offering some of the best and freshest produce to our community, also creates an additional time for those who work, have transportation issues or are simply running out of food,” Hollens said. “The Saturday Fresh Market will offer eggs, milk, a variety of fresh fruits and additional fresh produce to start. It is no secret that the need for accessible new food options has become a dire necessity in our community.”
Hollens said it is important to have access to fresh, affordable food. Besides the obvious reasons, such as wanting to eat something fresh, the reasons for the importance of food that is both fresh and affordable are vast. Some of these reasons include:
• Lack of access to fresh food contributes to overeating and obesity.
• Lack of access to affordable food options leads to the overconsumption of fast-food products, also leading to obesity and other health conditions.
• In some cases, a lack of access to good food options can lead to a sacrifice in nutrition, also contributing to health conditions.
• A good and healthy balanced diet must consist of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Bad food choices can add to unusually high levels of stress and poor mental health – even a proliferation of violence in some cases.
• Studies have linked food insecurity with concentrations of less physical activity, further degrading health.
“Giving our clients the opportunities to try out our fresh produce on a Saturday is another way to educate them and our community on how fresh fruits and vegetables can provide more convenience and added value to their lives,” Hollens said. “This Saturday market also gives us a chance to enhance the client’s experience as it requires no appointment, and the focus is on fewer products and face-to-face conversations with our volunteers.”
At the market, clients can receive recipes and learn more about Fish & Loaves from volunteers on how to get more value from their food.
For more information about Fish & Loaves Community Food Pantry and its services, go to www.flcfp.org and follow Fish & Loaves on Facebook.