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Our Kitchen Table awarded $75,000 grant to address child lead exposure through gardening

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

MDHHS awarded Our Kitchen Table 2018 Child Lead Exposure Elimination Innovation Grant in the amount of $75,000.00 to reduce lead poisoning in three “hot spot” zip codes.


Southeast Area Farmers' Market open through Nov. 3

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays

Oct. 6, 13, 20, Nov. 3 & 10 at LINC Parking Lot,
Madison Ave. north of Hall St. SE 

Oct. 27 MLK Jr. Park,  Franklin St. & Fuller Ave. SE

The Southeast Area Farmers’ Market provides a wide variety of local produce, cottage kitchen foods, personal care items, crafts and ready-to-eat foods. Our vendors are primarily women of color, home growers and residents of OKT’s targeted neighborhoods. In addition to providing access to healthy food, the market hosts meal preparation activities, workshops and guests from community organizations.We Bridge Card, SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, WIC and many other assistance and coupon programs.




The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) awarded Our Kitchen Table (OKT) a 2018 Child Lead Exposure Elimination Innovation Grant in the amount of $75,000.00. OKT is leveraging the funding to reduce the likelihood of lead poisoning among families living in three “hot spot” zip codes in Grand Rapids, Michigan: 449503, 49506 and 49507. The project centers on 40 families currently receiving food assistance benefits via the Supplement Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP) with students enrolled at Grand Rapids’ Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs as well as 6th through 8th grade students involved in the school’s student council. (In 2018, the schools’ student council focused its efforts on improving the school-based food system.)

The project involves a three-prong approach.

  1. Participants are being educated about the threat of lead exposure/poisoning within these “hot spots” and the role good nutrition can play as a preventative measure.
  2. Second, OKT staff and volunteers are working with families to create window box and container gardens to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs high in iron, calcium and other minerals proven to improve health status as well as prevent lead poisoning or minimize children’s absorption of lead.
  3. Participants that grow food gardens will be assigned and work with an OKT cooking coach to develop and prepare meals and snacks using the grown fruits, vegetables and herbs from their food gardens.

OKT is also encouraging participants to shop at its Southeast Area Farmers’ Market, a walkable market in the 49507 zip code offering fresh local produce as well as a bulk whole foods buying program.

OKT has assisted school families and staff with planting and maintaining a food garden for the past four years. Through the food garden, 150 families have received fresh produce and herbs. Likewise, MLK school families have participated in shopping at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market and bulk whole foods buying program.

In addition to being lead poisoning hot-spots, these zip codes also have some of the highest rates of poverty in the county. At MLK school, 96 percent of the 440 students come from families that receive food assistance. The same percentage of students receives free or reduced lunches. Twelve percent of the students attending MLK school experienced homelessness in 2015. The racial/ethnic profile of the student population is 76 percent African American, 11 percent Hispanic/Latino (11 percent), 6 percent White, and 6 percent multiracial (6 percent).

A grass-roots, nonprofit organization serving the communities of greater Grand Rapids, Our Kitchen Table (OKT) seeks to promote social justice and serve as a vehicle that empowers our neighbors so that they can improve their health and environment, and the health and environment of their children, through information, community organizing and advocacy.

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