In downtown Kalamazoo, People’s Food Co-op (PFC) has remained a reliable destination to provide our community with a wide selection of nutritious, wholesome foods since it opened in 1973. With the tagline—locally grown, community-owned—the adaptations it has made during the pandemic to support the community, while not out of character, have benefited farmers, small businesses, and families in numerous ways. According to Katie Justa, marketing manager, the PFC team worked hard to develop a pandemic plan that would align with the guidelines provided by the Michigan Farmers Market Association while still supporting community members’ needs. Some key initiatives incorporated in the PFC pandemic plan include: online ordering capabilities, an unlimited amount match for food assistant currency shoppers, a drive-thru farmers market, and the ability to purchase at-cost food for donations to Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.
While farmer’s markets are popping up throughout the state, Katie said the PFC drive-thru market helps to provide support for farmers and people who have food insecurities. “The thing that makes our drive-thru market different than some of the other pop-up markets in the community is that we can process food assistance currencies,” said Katie. “With so many families getting the pandemic EBT card, the double up food bucks program we offer doubles those funds dollar for dollar to use on fruits and vegetables with no limit.” The pandemic EBT card is provided to all families who need temporary funding for food. Additional funds are available for all students who receive free or reduced lunch through the Kalamazoo Public Schools, a program that was expanded in August of 2019.
The best way to continue to support farmers until the Farmers Market opens on June 6, is to buy from pop-up markets or place pre-orders for the drive-thru market, explains Katelyn Bekken, farmers market manager. “Farmers are really getting creative,” said Katelyn. “They are taking this problem into their own hands so they can still support the community and provide access to fresh food.”