Midland — Midland County has a hunger problem as almost one in three people struggle with food insecurity. But, the county now has an additional option to provide healthy food to those in need — Midland Fresh.
Led by Midland Fresh Chair Kurt Faust, the service delivers free produce directly to neighborhoods across the city and Midland County.
Best friends Faust and Chris Shirk collaborated to build a mobile food stand to transport the fresh produce on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The Midland Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting at Midland Nazarene Church on Sept. 20, as the outdoor, knotted-pine food stand was introduced to the community.
Midland Fresh has grown out of the Midland County Hunger Connection, a United Way of Midland County collaboration of 30 organizations. “This has been an effort between a number of organizations including Dow, United Way and the faith community,” said Diane Middleton from the Chamber staff.
The mobile food stand began its weekly route in mid-July as it visited eight locations.
“We scouted out the areas and then went to those neighborhoods and let them know, so, everybody knows where we are going to be. Once people caught on, they started getting it on Facebook,” Faust said.
Next year, plans are to expand the eight sites to 15.
“This year was very limited because we didn’t know exactly how it was going to go,” Faust said. “We’ll see where it goes.”
The primary goal of Midland Fresh has been to provide free produce, but Faust and Shirk have both seen the opportunity for residents to share.
“People really appreciate the food. They also just like to gather and talk and tell you their story,” Shirk said. “I think the conversation is half the benefit. And of course, people love the trailer. They think it’s cool.”
The bonus of heart-to-heart conversation has become a mainstay as the mobile food stand made stops at Whispering Pines Housing Community, downtown Coleman, Bracken Woods, Patrick Road apartments, Longview Early Childhood Center and the Caregiving Network.
“(Conversation) has been awesome, especially out-county,” Faust said. “You almost have a food desert out in Coleman without a grocery store. It’s a social thing for them to show up and talk. People are appreciative and they love learning more about vegetables.”
As the quantity of vegetables dwindles from the three community gardens at Midland Nazarene, Messiah Lutheran Church and Memorial Presbyterian, the plan is to continue providing vegetables through next week.
“Our goal is to have three more gardens next year,” Faust said.
It was Shirk and Faust who teamed up to create the mobile food stand that has become the centerpiece of Midland Fresh.
“Kurt came to me with a couple of ideas from the internet,” Shirk said. “He is very artistic and I’m an engineer and builder. When Tractor Supply donated the trailer it gave us a good base to build from.”
People who desire produce are not required to fill out any forms, or answer any questions as they gather healthy vegetables from the food stand.