Last month, I spent three days in Michigan and while spring weather in the Great Lakes State doesn’t appeal to some, I was excited to make the trip. After all, when I was a student at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!), I volunteered at Food Gatherers. So, when asked to speak at their “The State of Our Plate” convening, I said, “Yes!” Some of the people in the room, who were classmates, continuously help federal nutrition programs operate successfully in Washtenaw County through their work to improve food access. I am deeply appreciative for their unwavering service and for showing up for families in need.
Another set of Michiganders that I’m fiercely proud of are the school food service professionals. I joined the Oakland County child nutrition professionals at their 42nd annual workshop: Get Your Groove On for Child Nutrition. Day after day, they are feeding our future and giving kids a healthy start. After meeting with 15 Oakland County food service directors, I learned more about their local initiatives and their thoughts on the child nutrition proposed rules.
I heard about Oakland County’s Better with Breakfast program, a groundbreaking public/non-profit collaboration between the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, Oakland Schools, and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Following the meeting, I also visited Waterford Kettering High School’s early lunch service, talked with students, and met with school administrators who couldn’t agree more that hungry children don’t learn well.
But it is not just kids who need proper nutrition to thrive, nutrition security for all is critically important which is why USDA was thankful to be a part of the summit hosted by ProMedica and The Root Cause Coalition at Trinity Health Ann Arbor. Healthcare professionals, insurers, federal, state, and local government officials, and many others came together to discuss hunger as a public health issue. Hunger and diet-related diseases are almost entirely preventable and while USDA administers some of the most effective tools to help address these problems, USDA can’t fight this battle alone. One amazing model that provides access to healthy foods and bridges nutrition security and healthcare is The Farm at Trinity Health which I toured following the summit. Watch for an upcoming blog about The Farm and how it is growing a healthy community. Incredible!
I left Michigan truly inspired by who I met and what I heard, and excited for the work we will do together in the days ahead.