HOLLAND, MI – A new Holland food club aims to boost food access by providing a grocery store experience for low-income families.
Community Action House opened the $4.4 million Food Club and Opportunity Hub, 739 Paw Paw Drive, on Monday, Oct. 25.
“It looks way different than a pantry,” said Scott Rumpsa, executive director of Community Action House. “You don’t have to sit down and wait. You don’t have to talk to a social worker. You just grab your cart, walk through and it can be an in-and-out, 15-minute experience.”
Modeled after community food clubs in Grand Rapids and Ludington, the member-only service operates on a point system. Qualifying members pay a monthly fee of $11-17 and are allocated points based on income and family size.
Over $100 worth of groceries can be purchased with points every month. Healthier food options are offered at a lower points cost.
“Today, we plan to have dozens of our neighbors in need shopping with a more dignified experience, choosing food off the shelves,” Rumpsa said. “Food they and their families need but they sometimes just can’t afford.”
Located in a former neighborhood grocery store, the Food Club shelves are stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy products, and non-perishables like rice, beans and pasta. Colorful murals painted by Holland artist Joel Schoon Tanis decorate the produce section and the dairy aisle.
Pat Krontz, Melissa Bodman and Linda Long, who call themselves the three Musketeers, were the first customers to walk through the doors Monday morning.
Krontz hoped to pick up ribs for her upcoming birthday, and Bodman said the Food Club helps stretch a limited food budget.
“Every little bit helps,” Bodman said.
Related: Free fruits and vegetables now available weekly to low-income families in Grand Rapids
Donations from community food drives and retail chains like Meijer and Aldi stock the 16,000-square-foot Food Club. Community Action House also purchases items wholesale for the donation-funded facility.
About 230 volunteers staff the Food Club five days a week.
Rumpsa believes it’s empowering and “intensely restorative” for families to get food in a grocery store setting.
About 10,000 people in the Holland-Zeeland area face food insecurity, according to Community Action House.
Food Club membership is available to people whose incomes are up to 200% of the poverty line. This ranges from about $25,000 for a one-person household to $52,000 for a four-person household.
Rumpsa says it addresses a “benefits cliff” for families who do not qualify for assistance but struggle with food access.
“What we recognize is that people have an income but it’s just not enough,” he said.
Community Action House also consolidated its resource navigation and financial wellness services to the facility to be a one-stop shop for assistance. Founded in 1969, the nonprofit organization provides food, clothing and shelter in Ottawa and northern Allegan counties.
The Food Club is open on Monday, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 1-7 p.m.
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