Local nonprofits and Gerbes stores help feed low-income families

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COLUMBIA - Residents moving into the Lynn Street Cottages in Columbia not only obtain four new walls, they also receive vouchers to make their dinner plate colorful.

In a partnership with the Columbia Health Department, Columbia Community Land Trust and the Beacon of Hope Foundation, Gerbes Supermarket will accept fresh and frozen fruit and vegetable vouchers.

Public Health Promotions Supervisor for the Columbia Health Department Michelle Shikles explained this is a transition program.

“What we’re trying to do in this situation is during this transient period, during this first year, providing them with fruit and veggie vouchers so even if there is that feeling of being financially strapped, they don’t have to compromise their health because of it,” she said.

The Beacon of Hope Foundation funded the whole project for the next year, giving $900 a year to each of the seven Lynn Street Cottage households. That allows households to use 15, $5 vouchers each month.

Randy Cole, the City of Columbia’s housing programs supervisor, said the goal is to give the families a kickstart. He said it is a “partnership to stabilize families and help improve their lives.” 

Gerbes Supermarket Store Manager Todd Brondel is one of three store managers who are helping Gerbes reach the community.

“It’s a healthy eating program so we believe that if we’re partnering with the community and folks that are having struggles to feed their family in healthy environment, this will obviously put fresh fruits and vegetables on their plate and help them with their diet.”

Brondel explained this program is in supplement to food stamps that the families may receive. He said it’s, “another way we can reach out to our community to feed folks who are struggling to eat healthy.”

The owners of the first few cottages will sign their final paperwork later this week, move in shortly after and start using the vouchers whenever they’re looking for fruits and vegetables. 

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