LANSING, Mich., Jan. 13, 2020 — Gov. Whitmer’s Food Security Council recently issued its recommendations to the governor on how to best address food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council, created in August, is made up of community leaders, department heads and legislators from across the state, and was tasked with analyzing the nature, scope and causes of food insecurity in Michigan, then submitting recommendations to the governor on how to best curb this widespread issue.
“It’s something that often goes unseen in our communities, but food insecurity always has and continues to affect Michiganders from all over the state,” said state Rep. Angela Witwer (Delta Township), who was appointed to the council by the governor. “Especially right now, when so many people are—through no fault of their own—struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic, it was necessary to take immediate, thorough action in looking at how we can best offer assistance. No one should ever have to go hungry, and I am just glad to have been a part of this group working on a cause that I feel so passionately about.”
The council, which is within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), is making recommendations in the three areas of:
- Addressing food needs faced by Michigan residents. Included are recommendations to require the state to swiftly pursue existing federal food program services and seek flexibility; develop approaches for food distribution such as home delivery; and provide incentives for additional retailers to accept online payment from people who receive food assistance benefits.
- Collaborating with partners and improving the infrastructure for food and nutrition programs. Included are recommendations to continue partnerships with food banks, State Emergency Operations Center personnel, the Michigan National Guard and other organizations responsible for food and nutrition programs and services; develop a process for communities to create local emergency response plans with their county emergency managers; and develop data-sharing and technology procedures to identify food needs for clients and track the total food distribution across agencies.
- Ensuring an adequate food supply in Michigan. While ample food has existed in the supply chain during the pandemic, recommendations include developing a communications strategy to address “panic buying;” prioritizing food workers along the supply chain for personal protective equipment and workplace safety materials; and creating a statewide program that engages restaurants and their workers to distribute prepared meals to vulnerable populations.
“The work of Governor Whitmer’s Food Security Council allows Michigan to define reality regarding food security challenges across our state,” said Dr. Phil Knight, Executive Director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan and Food Security Council Chair. “The pandemic has made these challenges easier to see and now address. The cooperation between the State of Michigan and community based organizations like the Food Bank Council allows us to envision a path forward where hunger comes off the table for our seniors, children and all our families.”