How the YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing is fighting food insecurity through their Healthy Living Mobile Kitchen Bus.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing in Lansing, Michigan, has provided meals for families since 2007, but their Healthy Living Mobile Kitchen Bus — which created an expansion into the community — is what truly got the Y in the anti-hunger world.
Jeff Scheibel, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing, reached out to Casey Thompson, the vice president of operations, to create a youth obesity program for the community. Once the program started being crafted out and talked about with colleagues, it was clear addressing youth obesity would be difficult in Lansing where many families deal with food insecurities.
“Soon, the Lansing team felt passionately that if obesity was going to be addressed, there needed to be a two-prong approach, physical activity and nutrition,” said Thompson. “Nutrition would come in several variations and programs from farmers markets, food distribution and nutrition education classes. The problem was big in the community. However, the need to take these resources to people in their neighborhoods was the only way to get our resources to the families that truly needed them.”
So, the Healthy Living Mobile Kitchen Bus was born to ensure this happened and hit the road in August 2016.
The program benefits the community because it specifically targets the neighborhoods that are high risk, low income and lack resources. With the Mobile Kitchen Bus, resources are taken into neighborhoods to eliminate the barrier of getting to a location where food is being handed out.
“In a lot of cases, these families don’t have cars so the sheer need to drive somewhere to pick up food is not an option and it costs money to ride the bus,” explained Thompson. “The YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing also works with multiple partners to map out resources in the community to know exactly where the bus needs to go to fill the gaps.”
The need for the Mobile Kitchen Bus grew even stronger due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With schools closed, kids who were normally getting two meals from school and a snack in after-school programs were stuck at home where their cupboards were empty. These were the families targeted to ensure the Y could help fill the gap made wider by the pandemic.
Since March 16, the Lansing Y has served over 279,030 meals, fighting food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite food insecurity and food deserts in the area, the Y is working to ensure they can reach everyone in their community that needs them, not just their members.
“Having the Healthy Living Mobile Kitchen Bus allows the Y to be very nimble and change locations quickly if needed, which makes it easier to serve the most vulnerable and isn’t confined to four walls,” said Thompson.