Nonprofit offers farm-fresh foods for southwest Grand Rapids

Courtesy United Church Outreach Ministry

United Church Outreach Ministry is offering a wide range of Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables at a reduced price to neighbors on the southwest side of Grand Rapids.

The UCOM Farm Stand features staples like eggs and dried produce; fresh spring vegetables, greens and tomatoes; and specialties like local honey at approximately half the price of a normal farmers market.

In partnership with the Heart of West Michigan United Way, UCOM is one of several area pantries that have adopted this innovative approach to help communities still reeling from the effects of COVID-19. The farm stand makes nutritious and locally sourced foods accessible to area families who are earning less than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines.

Neighbors who are above this income level may still choose to shop at the farm stand at normal prices, which supports the long-term viability of the program.

“We recognize that good nutrition is vital to cultivating a healthy life,” UCOM Executive Director Bruce Roller said. “For local families, health is essential to success in both school and work. By caring for a person’s nutrition, we are caring for their whole self.”

The UCOM Farm Stand accepts cash, bridge cards, SNAP, EBT, Project Fresh and Double Up Food Bucks. Clients may shop as often as they like. UCOM primarily serves Wyoming, Grandville and southwest Grand Rapids, although many of its programs, including the farm stand, are open to all. Current farm stand hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday.

Other programs at UCOM include wellness and physical activity classes, healthy choice food pantry, clothing pantry, community garden, job coaching, free income tax preparation and financial literacy programs, many of which are being offered virtually. The ministry soon will offer 30 CSA shares from its farm stand at a 75% discount for those using SNAP.

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