Innovative program helps restaurants and the hungry in Jackson


  • ehrlif /

With no end in sight to the economic turmoil spurred by the pandemic, a mid-Michigan community is launching an innovative program to ensure families have food on the table.

Through a $500,000 donation from Consumers Energy and several community partners, the new Our Town program in Jackson will distribute meals prepared by more than 20 local restaurants to people in need.

Derek Dobies, mayor of Jackson, said more than 1,000 meals will be handed out daily at the King Center in the heart of the city.

"It'll be a big effort," Dobies stated. "And the more that cities can think outside the box and partner with their business community and rally together, I think, it will help build even more resilient cities."

The Governor's Food Security Council recently reported a 38% increase in food insecurity overall during the pandemic, and a 63% increase among children.

Brian Wheeler, media relations manager for Consumers Energy, said the collaboration is inspired by a similar program in Vermont, which used federal funds instead of being a donor-driven effort.

"While our commitment right now is for 10 weeks here in the Jackson area, we're hoping that perhaps other money can come forward that we can continue this," Wheeler explained. "Or really see if other communities here, in our state or elsewhere can be inspired by the idea and do something similar."

Dobies added the program also will benefit local restaurants and other businesses that have struggled during the pandemic.

"The restaurants are doing their part to contribute to our local economy and making sure that a large percentage of the food that they're serving is sourced from local goods," Dobies observed. "So, [it is] having the kind of ripple effect on our local economy."

Visit to learn more about meal distribution, or how to donate.

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