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Pursuing what it calls a radical shift to feed hungry families, a Macomb County food pantry wants to build a commercial-size aquaponics farm in its warehouse.

The Hope Center has distributed more than 6 million pounds of food to more than 200,000 people and more than 300,000 pounds of food to local shelters and soup kitchens since 2010. It has relied heavily on purchased food to supplement donations of free food from the community, center officials said.

“Food pantries can no longer afford to purchase enough food to meet the growing need in our communities. Innovative solutions like aquaponics could very well bridge the gap,” said the center’s client services director, Kimerie Guy.

The idea for the Rooted Water project is to create a self-sustaining “eco-system” to produce fresh, organic fish and vegetables year-round, in the warehouse at 33222 Groesbeck in Fraser.

United Way for Southeastern Michigan has committed $25,000 to the project, and offered a $25,000 matching grant if the Hope Center raises $25,000 of its own funds for the project.

The entire system costs $214,000 to build, stock the tanks and plant the beds.

Karla Gardner, spokeswoman for the center, said the indoor farm will help the Hope Center supplement current food supplies with a year-round supply and enable it to provide healthier food.

“This project will not only reduce our current food program expenditures by nearly $200,000 each year, it offers an additional income source that will strengthen Hope Center’s financial position and ensure a healthier future for the organization and the clients we serve,” Gardner said.

Eric Davis, senior director of community impact with United Way, said his organization has provided significant grants to food pantries across Metro Detroit, yet the needs of hungry families still aren’t being met. The increasing price of food is a major reason. “We really want to look at sustainable options. The science says it does work. This could be a way for pantries to expand their options year round. We are interested in scaling it out,” Davis said.

Donations can be made to www.HopeCenterMacomb.org or by calling (586) 491-2924.

jchambers@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2269

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