Michigan Association of Health Plans

Kids’ Food Basket and Outdoor Discovery Center Network receive $2,500 grants for urban farming/nutrition and parenting education programming for low-income families

Kids’ Food Basket and Outdoor Discovery Center Network (ODC Network) each received a $2,500 grant from the Michigan Association of Health Plans (MAHP) to provide families and caregivers with education and resources in Allegan and Ottawa Counties.

This funding is being made available as part of the MAHP’s Tackling Health Care Disparities in Michigan grant program, which encourages community-based organizations to collaborate and deploy local initiatives aimed at creating better health outcomes and improving health equity.

ODC Network will use the grant to fund 16 free classes on parenting education during the 2023-2024 preschool year, helping to provide a free meal and childcare during the classes. ODC Network has been offering nature-based childcare and preschool since 2013 and serves around 400 children between the ages of 0-5 and their families. The curriculum for the parenting classes is still in development and will include two of their licensed social workers as educators.

“We understand it’s hard for parents who need additional resources and support to also have childcare so this program will help many families and reduce barriers,” said Heather Bouwman, director of support services at ODC Network. “We’re thankful for the support from MAHP and our community partners that ensure we can offer the support our local families need.”

Kids’ Food Basket will use the grant toward its urban farming and nutrition education in Ottawa and Allegan counties. Kids’ Food Basket grows and distributes sustainably grown fruits and vegetables on their 10 acres of farmland. These farming programs provide tens of thousands of servings of fresh fruits and vegetables to under-resourced children and families. Since July 1, 2023, 167,195 servings of produce have been grown and distributed from the farm.

“Our goal is to ultimately reduce food insecurity and increase food equity in our communities,” said Bridget Clark Whitney, president and founding CEO of Kids’ Food Basket. “And urban farming and nutrition education is a key component of our work. This programming is a powerful tool to providing equitable food solutions.”

According to 2021 data from Feeding America, over 33,000 individuals in Ottawa and Allegan counties face food insecurity.

“MAHP recognizes the important role that Kids’ Food Basket and Outdoor Discovery Center Network play in improving the health outcomes of Michigan children,” said Dominick Pallone, executive director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans. “We are honored to present these grants to two organizations serving Michigan families and increasing health equity.”

“These two organizations are crucial to our community,” said Rep. Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland). “I’m proud of Kids’ Food Basket and ODC Network’s missions and thankful for the support from MAHP so that these organizations can serve more families.”

Those interested in supporting Outdoor Discovery Center Network or Kids’ Food Basket can visit their websites to learn how to get involved.

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