Initiatives

Ottawa Food is working to eliminate hunger in Ottawa County, encourage healthy eating, and increase sourcing of local food. There are many ways we work to do this, with the goal of meeting people where they are. We partner with many other local organizations, groups, and events so that it’s easy for people to learn and have access to the information and resources we share. We also share on social media and advertise digitally.

Real Food Can

Ottawa Food is currently running a public awareness campaign encouraging Ottawa County residents to consume more fruits and vegetables. The Real Food Can campaign addresses identified barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption, including cost and lack of knowledge about how to prepare these items. We are educating the public through a variety of methods, including print, social media, billboards, restroom ads, etc. Social media and other ads link viewers to RealFoodCan.org, where they can find tips, recipes, videos, information about local produce, and other resources related to fruits and vegetables.

Produce Donation Program

Help us provide local residents in need with fresh fruits and vegetables. Pick up a bag at the donation table. The table will be staffed by The People Center & Bucs Care Pantry (GHHS).

Grand Haven Farmers Market: July 15

Spring Lake Farmers Market: July 9, Aug 6 and Sept 10

Learn More

Meet Up and Eat Up (MUEU)

Meet Up and Eat Up is a USDA program that provides free lunches to all kids 18 and under during the summer at family-friendly locations including parks, libraries and schools. We see higher participation in these events when there are family activities provided in addition to the meals. Ottawa Food coordinates the purchase of nutrition education materials, event supplies, and physical activities for MUEU events across the county. In 2019, there were 36 MUEU sites in Ottawa County, and 61,645 meals were served.

Gleaning in Ottawa County

In 2019, Ottawa Food partnered with Feeding America West Michigan, Hope College, and various local produce growers to glean fresh fruits and vegetables. Because of this program, we were able to glean 165 pounds of fresh strawberries and over 500 pounds of fresh cherries, rather than this fruit being left unused in the fields. These fruits were distributed to food pantries to give to people in need.

Senior Project Fresh

This program provides qualifying older adults with $20 in vouchers to purchase unprocessed, Michigan-grown produce at authorized farmers markets. Through Senior Project Fresh, we are able to increase seniors’ access to healthy food while also supporting the local economy and local growers. In 2019 Ottawa Food distributed vouchers to 300 seniors in Ottawa County. Participants also received nutrition education, recipes, and cooking supplies.

Holland Middle School Greenhouse

In 2019, a greenhouse was built at Holland Middle School. Students learn to plant, grow, harvest, and prepare food grown in the greenhouse. Ottawa Food provides the school with a stipend to keep the greenhouse running through the summer months when school is not in session. The food harvested benefits students as well as is given to community members in need.

Efforts to Reduce Food Waste

Ottawa Food recently partnered with the Ottawa County Environmental Health Food Team, local restaurants/caterers, and local food pantries to rescue potentially wasted food in Ottawa County. We’ve worked with local schools to implement share tables, where people place food and drinks they wouldn’t eat. This helps to reduce food waste, as well as reducing hunger.

Lakeshore Food Rescue Farmers Relief Fund

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, families and farmers in West Michigan are facing economic challenges of historic scale. Families in need are turning to food pantries, increasing the demand for available food. And farmers are struggling to sell their crops because schools are closed, and restaurants are operating on a limited basis. Through the Local Farm Relief Effort, food is purchased directly from farms and distributed through local pantries to those who need food. Local food purchases keep small farms financially stable while providing fresh, healthy produce to food-insecure residents of our community.

Pick for Pantries

This program allows U-Pick patrons at participating local produce farms (strawberries, blueberries, and apples) to donate a portion of their pick to local food pantries. In 2019, over 500 pounds of produce were donated through this program. Thank you to the following U-pick farms for participating:

  • Bowerman Blueberries
  • Crossroads Blueberries
  • Grange Fruit Farm
  • Rasch Family Orchards
  • Visser Farms