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"The program changed what I eat. I can tell I'm healthier now," says Alan.
Having healthy, affordable food is important to everyone, but especially to those whose lives are undergoing transition, such as Dennis Brown, 56, who lives in Detroit’s Piquette Square, an apartment complex with supportive services for veterans. Dennis doesn’t have a car so finding fresh, affordable produce can be a challenge. “I searched high and low to find a decent green pepper at a nearby store,” he said.
The nearest full-service market is more than a mile and a half away and “It’s standing room only on the buses—you don’t want to do it with groceries,” he explained.
Since signing up for Gleaners Fresh Food Share program, Dennis and other participants at Piquette Square receive a monthly delivery of fresh produce. Each box of produce includes a newsletter with nutrition information and recipes.
“I’m trying to buy healthier and leave a lot of the junk food alone. I wasn’t sick one day last winter,” said Alan Schultz, a 53-year-old Coast Guard veteran who also participates in the Fresh Food Share (FFS) program.
FFS boxes can be paid for with cash or SNAP(bridge cards) and Michigan-grown produce is eligible for “Double-Up Food Bucks” so that a $10 purchase can provide $20 worth of produce.
Having an affordable source of fresh produce is helpful as both men live on a limited budget during this transition stage. Dennis attends Wayne County Community College where he is six credits away from an associate’s degree in television production. He works in the veterans’ work-study office there and teaches computer skills at Piquette Square.
Alan held a long career as a master car mechanic until his clavicle was broken during a robbery, preventing him from lifting heavy objects. When his income halted, he lost the home he had owned for 30 years. Alan now works as a parking lot attendant for downtown sports events and is grateful for low-cost housing provided at Piquette Square. “When you’re coming off parking lots in the middle of winter, it’s nice to know you have a warm bed,” he said.
Dennis agreed, “It’s a stable place to stay while you’re planning.”
The 150-unit apartment complex, built and managed by nonprofit Southwest Solutions, is open to male and female homeless veterans. A range of counseling services helps veterans prepare for and find jobs, as well as assists them with health needs. Since opening in 2010, 108 residents of Piquette have moved on to more independent living.
In addition to participating in the Fresh Food Share program, Piquette Square has been the site for two Gleaners Cooking Matters™ classes.