Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Food Club and Opportunity Hub
Overview: A new Food Club has opened in Holland, Michigan, to increase healthy food access for low-income community members in a high-dignity, high-choice environment.
Location: Holland, Michigan
Food policy category: Food access, food security
Program goals: To improve healthy food access for low-income community members while emphasizing dignity and choice.
How it works: The Food Club model, developed in 2015, is used to create a grocery store environment in which low-income individuals can access healthy food in an efficient, high-dignity, high-choice environment. Residents with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line, may purchase a Food Club membership and use points to shop for foods they want at times that are convenient for them. Membership fees range from $11 to $17 per month (set on a sliding scale based on income), and points are allocated based on family size (larger families receive more points).
Members can redeem their monthly allotment of points for $150 or more worth of groceries at the Food Club, with healthier food items “selling” for fewer points than less healthy foods. Items on offer include fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy products, and pantry items such as rice, pasta, and beans. The Food Club relies on donations from community food drives and retail stores, as well as wholesale purchases by Community Action House.
The Food Club is run by more than 230 regular volunteers who work as cashiers, stocking shelves, or in other capacities that best suit the volunteers’ skills.
Adjacent to the Food Club is an Opportunity Hub, where members can work with staff members to address challenges, access resources and learn skills to build financial empowerment and autonomy.
The Food Club and Opportunity Hub is an initiative of Community Action House, a local nonprofit working to end poverty and provide food, clothing, shelter, and skills to community members. To start the Food Club, Community Action House has partnered with Ottawa Food, an Ottawa County, Michigan, collaboration that works on increasing healthy, affordable food access.
Progress to date: Community Action House broke ground in March 2021, and the Food Club and Opportunity Hub opened on October 25.
Why it is important: Food insecurity and chronic disease are often linked. Inadequate nutrition can both lead to chronic disease and make its management more difficult. Healthcare costs can also significantly decrease a household’s budget, leaving little money available for the healthy foods needed to manage chronic illnesses.
Prior to opening the Food Club, Community Action House was running the area’s busiest food pantry to meet the needs of food-insecure residents. Based on program data, community needs assessments, and guest survey responses, the Food Club model was deemed to be a more appropriate approach to providing healthy food to low-income individuals. Unlike a traditional food pantry, the Food Club allows members to use their monthly points allotment to procure any foods that they want at convenient times up to six days per week, including evenings and Saturdays. Healthy, varied fresh food options are guaranteed to be available, and culturally relevant food options are prioritized based on guest focus groups and feedback.
Paying a small monthly membership fee and shopping in a grocery store environment allows members quick, regular food access with a model that helps maintain their dignity rather than potentially making them feel like a “charity case.”
Program/Policy initiated: The Food Club and Opportunity Hub opened on October 25.
Point of contact:
Scott Rumpsa, Executive Director, Community Action House
Phone: (616) 392-2368 ext. 110
Similar practices: The original Community Food Club opened in 2015 Grand Rapids, Michigan, with the support of Feeding America West Michigan. The Lakeshore Food Club was later established in Ludington, Michigan.
Evaluation: The Ottawa County Department of Strategic Initiatives will monitor the program for success based on the following metrics:
- Serve five times more people every month at less than half the historic cost per person served.
- Provide food and nutrition assistance to 1,200 member families every month.
- Members achieve increased food and financial security.
- Members increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.
- Food Insecurity, Healthcare Utilization, and High Cost: A Longitudinal Cohort Study (American Journal of Managed Care)
- Hunger, Poor Nutrition Lead to Chronic Disease (Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease)
- Nutrition and Chronic Conditions (Nutrients)
- Preserving Dignity in the Face of Hunger: A Study of Food Pantry Utilization (Humanity and Society)
- Community Action House Opens Grocery-Store-Like Food Club (Holland Sentinel)
- Community Action House to Open New Food Club in Holland (WOODTV)
- Community Food Club (Community Food Club)
- Food Club & Opportunity Hub (Community Action House)
- Food Club & Opportunity Hub (Now Open!) (Community Action House)
- Food Club Offers Grocery Store Setting for Low-Income Families in Holland (MLive)
- How It Works (Community Action House)
- Incremental Health Care Costs Associated With Food Insecurity and Chronic Conditions Among Older Adults (Preventing Chronic Disease)
- Opening of Food Club Brings New Food Access Model to Holland (The Lakeshore West Michigan)
- Poor Nutrition (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Understanding Food Insecurity (Feeding America)