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Jackson's Our Town meal distribution is more than just a free meal

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Posted at 6:01 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 18:01:33-05

JACKSON, Mich. — If you've wondered about the line of cars stretching down Adrian St., here's the answer: It's the Our Town meal distribution program at the King Center.

"Well, we’re planning on giving 1,250 meals for three days a week for 10 weeks so a total of 40,000 meals and we hope to reach as many people as possible with those meals," said Consumers Energy Community Affairs Manager Mindy Bradish-Orta. "We do anticipate there will be some repeat customers which is totally fine. If someone needs a good healthy meal, we hope they come out and collect one.”

The program started this week and people have taken advantage of it.

“There’s so many of them, I can’t keep track," said Lifeways CEO and Our Town volunteer Maribeth Leonard.

Cars lined up a half hour early on Wednesday. All 1,250 meals were handed within 45 minutes.

“It’s very moving to see the amount of people that have turned out. The line of cars relative to the need that we’re seeing in our community around accessing food during a time of a pandemic." Leonard said.

Michael Williams who has lived in Jackson for 50 years got a meal Wednesday. He says it's an opportunity that he's thankful for.

“A friend of mine called me. They were passing out food boxes so I went to help her pass out food boxes and she told me they were doing this today and that they were going to do it for a few days this week so I decided to give my wife a break and come over and grab us a meal so she wouldn’t have to cook today," said Williams.

Even though the meal distribution program seems to be in high demand, local food pantries have seen the number of people they're serving go down during the pandemic going from 240 or more households to just 140.

“We figure it’s because of the weather or it’s because of the pandemic. I think a lot of them are just afraid to come out," said Jackson Community Food Pantry Executive Director Mark M. Smith.

He believes, once summer arrives, he may see more people.

Officials say the Our Town program helps both the community and small businesses because all of the meals come from local restaurants.

“So, we have raised almost $500,000," said Bradish-Orta. "Consumers Energy gave almost half of that, and the local community has stepped up and given the rest. So, with that money we’re able to give $10 per meal to each restaurant and the trickle down of that is just a great way to help small businesses in the community.”

The meal distribution is every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the King Center from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. through Apr. 9.

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1:52 PM, Dec 16, 2020

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