By: Autumn Vasquez
Food Gatherers, the food bank and food rescue program that serves Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has joined the Partnership for a Healthier America’s (PHA) Healthy Hunger Relief initiative to further uplift the health and well-being of the Washtenaw County community.
Food Gatherers will work with PHA, the national nonprofit organization fighting for food equity that was formed in conjunction with former First Lady Michelle Obama, to address hunger, malnutrition, and chronic disease by increasing the supply of healthier options and decreasing the supply of unhealthy options.
PHA’s Healthy Hunger Relief initiative currently works with 28 partners, reaches more than 7 million Americans, and has introduced 115 million pounds of healthy food into the emergency food system, while removing 19 million pounds of low nutrition food. By welcoming 30 new partners to the program like Food Gatherers, PHA’s Healthy Hunger Relief work will double in reach and span across 18 states, impacting more than 14 million Americans with good food. PHA’s Healthy Hunger Relief work is now in 30% of all food banks across the country.
“PHA’s Healthy Hunger Relief partners serve as the foundation of our mission to transform the food landscape in pursuit of food equity,” said Nancy E. Roman, President & CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America. “Through our work together, we’re ensuring that communities and families all across the country have access to healthier, high-quality, culturally relevant, and nutritious foods.”
Food Gatherers, along with 29 other new Healthy Hunger Relief partners, will receive support from PHA to implement a comprehensive nutrition ranking system. This system is being developed by experts at Healthy Eating Research, a national program committed to building a Culture of Health, over the next two years. In addition, PHA will provide technical assistance to help partners understand the nutritional quality of their inventory and make strategic decisions within and across food categories to improve nutritional quality and enhance food equity for the communities they serve.
“Food Gatherers understands that food insecurity is a health equity issue,” said Markell Miller, Director of Community Food Programs at Food Gatherers. “Neighbors facing limited food access often experience health challenges, and that disproportionately impacts Communities of Color. We are excited to work with Partnership for Healthier America to update our system to understand the nutritional quality of food provided to our community. Our neighbors who access food through our partner pantries need and deserve a variety of foods that support their health. By working with PHA we will be able to learn from other food banks as we make targeted, strategic decisions to improve the nutritional quality of foods offered, while accounting for and responding to the dietary preferences and cultural food practices of clients served.”
PHA made a commitment last month to provide 50 million servings of vegetables, fruits, and legumes to food-insecure families by 2025. PHA’s work with its Healthy Hunger Relief partners is part of this broader effort to meaningfully shift the food supply available in disadvantaged communities as the organization works to improve food equity across the country.