Bay View Community Center’s food pantry is located just south of downtown Milwaukee, WI serving zip codes 53207, 53221, 53235 and 53215 and individuals at or below 185% of the federal poverty level. The Center for Disease Control (2017) indicates that 19% of Wisconsin adults consume < one vegetable per day and 32% consume < one fruit per day. Wisconsin State Health Assessment and Health Improvement plan outlines in the objectives to eat heathier by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by one serving per day. Bay View Community Center wrote and received a grant from the City of Milwaukee’s Fresh Food Access Fund to design an in-person cooking class to teach life skills, grow fresh food/ vegetable intake and food preparation at a variety of Milwaukee Public School locations. However, Covid-19 changed the program plans. Demand for the Emergency Food Pantry has quadrupled over this time last year including a 67% increase in families with children. To meet the need the pandemic generated in the community, Bay View Community Center pivoted to create a “Take & Make” meal kit for a family of four. Up to 100 families each month can receive a meal kit which includes recipes, educational materials and a video demonstration by a local chef. Pickup on the kits is available during food pantry hours for curbside pickup. Videos are available on-demand and can be viewed on any device to accommodate the needs of the families who receive them.
Together, The Bay View Community Center and Roundy’s are fostering a community connection and easing the burden of sourcing components to package up to 100 meal kits monthly. The Bay View community center requests food items from our division office where our supply chain team partners with category teams to distribute items to the store (when the items were on sale, if possible) to meet the needs of the Bay View Community Center. The store team coordinates pick up with Bay View Community Center volunteers. Financial support from Roundy’s was initially provided through a gift card donation. A grant request is currently being reviewed for longer term program support.
The objective is twofold: to teach life skills and increase fresh food/ vegetable intake with participants. By increasing confidence and skills in the kitchen, low income participants are better equipped to feed their families self-made meals and include more vegetables. The longer-term program goals are again twofold: better health outcomes and decreased risk of chronic disease. The program provides recipients with fresh vegetables and nutrient dense recipes using them. They include educational materials focusing on building life skills in the kitchen including eating healthy on a budget, reducing food waste and making healthy substitutions. To augment the written recipes, it is important to provide the teaching visuals in video format to provide an additional way to interpret and understand the information provided. For example, to accommodate varying participants schedules, access to videos on-demand are available. Additionally, providing multicultural recipes to reflect the diversity of the community have been well-received.
With three months of data collected, the initial results are overwhelmingly positive. Participants from August and September meal kits reported 97% satisfaction with the meal kit recipes and quality of ingredients. October’s theme of “Use what you’ve got – Breakfast for Dinner” meal kits featured Frittata with Greens ‘N’ Beans and Drop Biscuits. These meal kits were designed to teach participants how to be resourceful in the kitchen, reduce food waste and use recipes as a guide rather than a rule. Completed participant surveys garnered the following insights: 83% are more likely to incorporate vegetables into their diets 83% have a better understanding of how to reduce food waste 100% feel more comfortable improvising in the kitchen Qualitatively, Bay View Community Center was able to capture the following participant quotes: "I am looking forward to September's Meal Kit. Money is so tight. I am so happy you are there for us." "All those fresh foods were wonderful."
Undernourishment and malnutrition can have a serious effect on the health and welfare of a community. In America today, one in eight people struggle with hunger. For those with economic constraints, food may be a discretionary item in their household budget. Unfortunately, hunger is not discretionary. Bringing families together around the dinner table is a cornerstone of our business. With an opportunity to partner with programs like the Bay View Community Center’s “Take & Make” meal kits, we can expand that reach to those on the margin allowing us to accomplish two ends at once, relieve hunger and educate the communities we serve to achieve better health outcomes. We are honored to be a part of the great work they do in helping make a profound difference in the lives of many who face food insecurity. Michael Marx, Roundy’s Division President