Five weeks into the Our Town Meal Distribution Program, the Jackson community is seeing the sizable impact of this special collaboration between the City of Jackson and Consumers Energy. Since the program began Feb. 1, 18,100 free meals have been distributed to people in need through the City’s Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, and nearly $200,000 has gone to local restaurants to produce the meals.
Healthy meals are distributed to anyone who needs a meal every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the MLK Center from 4 p.m. until meals are gone, but no later than 6 p.m. The program is funded by Consumers Energy and other community partners. Funds go to local restaurants and catering companies to produce prepackaged meals, which are distributed by City staff and volunteers at the MLK Center. The businesses must meet certain qualifications, such as purchasing a minimum of 50% of supplies locally. The program’s goal is to help with the COVID-19 pandemic on three fronts, providing free meals to people struggling with food security, helping local businesses financially impacted by pandemic restrictions, and keeping employees working at the businesses.
With the first five weeks a resounding success, organizers are preparing for the next round of the program, working with 11 new Jackson area restaurants to continue Our Town through Friday, April 9. The following businesses are providing meals for the second round:
- The Crazy Cowboy
- Nite Lite
- Cascades Manor House
- KeniKakes & More Catering
- Marino's Pizza and Catering
- Junkyard Dog
- Sylvia's Catering
- HotRodz Smokehouse
- Aggies Sports Bar
- Callaghan's Coffee Cafe
Every distribution day, long lines of cars wrap around the MLK Center as residents come to pick up meals. Most days, all 1,450 prepared meals are distributed within the first hour and a half. MLK Center Director Antonio Parker has worked alongside volunteers at every distribution event. “The huge demand we see for meals really shows how much the pandemic is impacting Jackson,” Parker said. “This is something families depend on to make ends meet, and they tell us how thankful they are for this program.”
“We are overwhelmed by the Jackson community’s response to Our Town and are grateful Consumers Energy and our community partners are making such an impact,” said Roger Curtis, Consumers Energy’s vice president of public affairs. “It’s exciting to see our local restaurants being helped and that thousands of people will not go hungry as our hometown emerges from the pandemic.”
Meals are available on a first come, first served basis and the majority of meals are often distributed before 6 p.m. There will be no meal distribution on Friday, April 2 due to Good Friday, so a distribution event will take place the previous day on Thursday, April 1. More information about the Our Town program, such as how to volunteer or donate, can be found by visiting cityofjackson.org/ourtown.