Healthy Eating and REACH

One of KCHC's main objectives is to increase the availability of affordable, healthy foods in the Hope Zone Neighborhoods by offering healthy options at corner/convenience stores and YMCA Veggie Van Distribution sites. We also aim to increase capacity to grow produce locally that can be distributed in Hope Zone Neighborhoods via YMCA Veggie Van by working with small scale growers.

Above: The image above were drawn by students at Roosevelt Park Ministries

Obesity and Healthy Eating in Kent County | YMCA Veggie Van | Healthy Corner Stores | Farmers | Grand Rapids Urban League Community Gardens | Learn More

Obesity and Healthy Eating in Kent County

Obesity, or having a bodyweight that is 20% higher than it should be, is linked to several health conditions. These include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

In Kent County, obesity rates are highest among adults in lower income brackets and African American residents.

  • 27.6% of adults in Kent County are obese.    
  • Lower income adult residents (<$20,000 per year) have higher obesity rates than higher income residents.
  •  African American adults have considerably higher rates of obesity than their White counterparts (46.0% vs. 26.2%).
  • Adults are more than twice as likely to be obese than youth (27.6% vs. 11.4%).
  • Since 1993, the rate of obesity in Kent County has continued to increase (17% in 1993 to 27.6% currently), which has been a similar trend statewide.

Along with physical activity, good nutrition and energy balance can help prevent obesity. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 calls for decreasing sedentary behaviors, while increasing fruit and vegetable intake to five servings of each per day.

  • Only 26% of adults and 34% of youth in Kent County report eating healthy balanced meals.
  • Men are less likely to meet recommended nutrition guidelines than women (19% vs. 32%).    
  • 19,200 Kent County residents live in a food desert, meaning they do not have access to a grocery store with fresh produce.
  • Youth in Kent County are much more likely to eat healthy balanced meals compared with Michigan youth. They are also less likely to be obese.

Sources: Kent County 2011 Community Health Needs Assessment, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) (2008), Kent County Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) (2014), Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MiPhY) (2012), Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MiPhY) (2013-2014)

 Visit the CDC to learn more about obesity.


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YMCA Veggie Van

The YMCA Veggie Van is West Michigan’s first and only mobile farmers market. The Veggie Van runs year round, making daily stops in urban neighborhoods throughout Grand Rapids, that have limited access to fruits and vegetables. It's selection of fresh produce is purchased from local farmers and sold at reduced prices. Additionally, the Veggie Van accepts SNAP, WIC, Senior Project Fresh/Market FRESH benefits. An electronic benefit transfer (EBT) is also offered to help families feed their children healthy breakfasts and lunches during the summer months.





Learn more about the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids' Veggie Van & Download the Monthly Schedule.

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Healthy Corner Stores

In 2015 the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids launched it's Healthy Corner Stores Initiative. This initiative is aimed at strengthening healthy food access for people in food desert. First working with three corner stores, the Y was able to determine what the stores were missing, and provided them with the necessary coolers, shelving, and marketing materials to promote healthy options. Since it began, there are now a total of five healthy corner stores. Locally grown produce is distributed to the different corner stores that participate by the Veggie Van.

Through this initiative, the Y has continued to create a positive impact by providing affordable, nutrient rich foods to residents. Store owners learn the benefits of selling more fruits and vegetables, as fresh produce brings in new customers, increases business, and helps build a healthy community. Customers also gain an opportunity to learn about the benefits of purchasing affordable fruits and vegetables and eating them.

Currently, Importaciones Guatemala Imports, Latin American Supermarket, and Oxford Market are receiving dollars from the REACH grant. Check out a list of product availability to see what kinds of foods are being offered in the Grand Rapids area.

During Michigan harvest of the Month, the corner stores also provide cooking demonstrations and samplings of the produce. Double Up Food Bucks allow those using SNAP benefits to double their purchase of Michigan grown produce by $20 per visit.

Learn more about the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids Healthy Corner Store Initiative here, and visit our Healthy Corner Store page to find a corner store near you.

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To provide affordable produce to food desert areas through the Veggie Van and Healthy Corner Stores, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids purchase it's fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Below is a list of those that works with the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.

Goen’s Produce

Lindberg’s Blueberries

Cooked to Perfection

Leo Dietrich and Sons

Heeren Brothers Produce 

GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project 

Urban Roots Farm

Hope Farms

Cherry Capital Foods

Bloom Ferments

Ham Family Farm

New City Urban Farm

Wealthy Street Bakery

Grassfields Cheese

Mud Lake Farm 

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Grand Rapids Urban League Community Gardens

In 2015 The Grand Rapids Urban League Urban Fellows not only promoted tobacco-free living, but took part in activities that encouraged healthy eating habits. After establishing a relationship with the Harmony Brewing Company, the young leaders learned about farm-to-table produce.

The Urban Fellows then built a community garden outside of the Kent County Health Department and acquired space at the Eastown Neighborhood Association garden plots. Here they could practiced growing and harvesting vegetables to share with their families and community residents. The students also received cooking lessons and used these skills to experiment with cooking vegetables from the gardens.

From these experiences, the Urban Fellows could develop an appreciation for growing fresh produce and the satisfaction of participating and contributing to the culture of health and wellness among their families and community.




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Learn More

Nutrition Basics
How much do you know about the food on your plate? Different foods are packed with different nutrients and can provide a variety of health benefits.

Portion Size
These days with restaurants serving huge plates of food, oversized drink cups, and "snacks" that could easily be confused for entrées, it's hard to tell how much is one serving. Even if you can't see the food label, there's some tricks for estimating your portion size.

Nutrition Facts Label
The Nutrition Facts Label was designed with the intention of making it easier for you to make quick, informed food choices for a healthy diet.

Added Sugars, Fats, and Sodium
Overconsumption of added sugars, fats, and sodium are linked to increased risk for developing chronic conditions such as obesity and heart disease. Learning where to find these foods and how to reduce your intake can help prevent these chronic conditions.

My Healthier Living Journal
As part of our Rx for Health program, we offer a Healthy Living Journal. You can use this tool to record your healthy eating habits such as what foods you eat and your daily physical activities.

The Heart of West Michigan's 2-1-1 is a free health and human service hotline that connects callers to more than 2,900 distinct services in Kent County 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Read the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is intended to help Americans eat a healthy diet. It outlines how people can improve their overall eating patters and has key recommendations with specific nutritional targets and dietary limits.

Check out our Healthy Eating Resources page to find more information about healthy eating, and find resources near you.

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