When the last grocery store moved out of the downtown area of Muskegon, we were left with a “food desert,” a low-income area, that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Many neighbors in the core city neighborhoods are without transportation, so access to fresh fruit and vegetables is difficult. The result of this has been an increase of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, fueled by the mix of unhealthy food and lack of exercise. Through efforts of groups like McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm and the Muskegon Farmers Market (open 3 times a week through the summer months), affordable, healthy, fresh produce is becoming more available to the community.
But it’s still not enough. Nationally the average American is eating a calorie rich diet, with excess amounts of saturated fats, and sodium, our diets are lacking in enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium, and fiber. This has contributed to some of the leading causes of death in the USA, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, strokes and some forms of cancer.
So what’s the answer?
We are killing ourselves with our diets, and the pharmaceutical remedies are often expensive and cause other health issues. So what can be done? Check out our new and innovative program called, “Muskegon Prescribes Food for Health (MPFH). For the last year, Community enCompass has convened a table of advocates of farm, food and health to develop a core city neighborhood health system to support our low-income neighbors.
Through MPFH, doctors from Hackley Community Care will prescribe patients veggies from McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm as part of their patients’ wellness plans! Cooking and nutrition classes alongside the prescriptions for fresh produce at McLaughlin Grows will offer patients 12 weeks of fresh food from the farm, helping to put them on a path towards a healthier diet and healthy life.
“The average income of our core city neighborhoods is below the poverty level. And even though there may not be a lack of food, there is a lack of education about food—we want to change that. We want them to know there is a connection between good nutritious food and better health,” said Patti Walker-Moran, AmeriCorps VISTA member at Community enCompass.
A pilot project of MPFH officially began August 15 with 24 participants and will end October 31. In 2018, we will launch a bigger program that will expand the number of participants.