Addressing Food Insecurity in Rural West Michigan Communities


People living in rural communities face economic challenges.

KENT COUNTY, Michigan — When you think of food insecurity, you might think it’s only a problem in densely populated urban areas, but people living in rural communities also face to economic challenges.

There are services available to people in North Kent County that can help them.

Located in Rockford, MI is North Kent Connect.

An organization committed to improving the lives of people in North Kent County, including towns like Sparta, Kent City, Cedar Springs, and more.

“We are seeing a lot of families who are kind of disconnected from a lot of services here in North Kent County. So, you know, imagine, everything they need is further away,” said Catherine Landers, Director of Client Services.

With rising gas prices and high inflation, budgets are pushed to the limit.

“Things are more expensive when you’re on the fringe, every dollar counts. So when you pay, you know, 10% more for something, it has a big impact,” Landers said.

North Kent Connect staff say they have noticed an increase in people coming to use their free food pantry.

“We have increased our income eligibility for our food pantry. So people, you know, even a family of four can make, you know, up to $6,000 a month and still be able to come get food,” Landers said.

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North Kent Connect also has a farm stand stocked with local produce including fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Inflation hasn’t hit the farm yet because we don’t have an intermediary. We are direct to the farmer or direct to the producer,” said Beverly Bouma, Food Programs Manager.

The farm stand is open to everyone, not just customers.

“We source all of this local food and put it at two price points, or a retail price and a reduced price, which makes fresh fruit accessible to everyone,” Bouma said.

You choose the price you want to pay. Green is retail value and yellow is discounted.

If you buy the amount of the green point, this money is injected back into the program.

“By buying from the green dot, you are actually supporting our yellow dot buyers,” Bouma said.

No matter where you live, know that there are people in your community who may be struggling, luckily there are things you can do and resources available that can help.

To find out more about North Kent Connect, click here.

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