JACKSON, MI — Jackson community leaders have a new plan to address the coronavirus pandemic-related challenges of a sluggish restaurant industry and the rising risks of food insecurity – buy meals from local restaurants and pass them out for free.

Consumers Energy and the city of Jackson are partnering in the new meal distribution program through Consumers’ “Our Town” initiative that distributes meals made by Jackson restaurants to Jackson families.

“We are excited this innovative and collaborative effort will assist those in need in our hometown,” Roger Curtis, Consumers Energy vice president for public affairs, said in a statement. “We have been so touched by the generosity of our friends with the city of Jackson and community partners who are stepping up to ensure our local restaurants stay in business and our neighbors do not go hungry.”

Officials got the idea from a program in Brattleboro, Vermont, called Everyone Eats. There, stakeholders used federal funding from coronavirus relief aid packages to support restaurants during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic and provide meals to the community. In Michigan, Consumers Energy hopes the ‘Our Town’ approach will lead to more donor-driven efforts across the state.

Related: ‘Peach Market’ hopes to address Jackson’s ‘food desert’ downtown, owner says

Meals are being distributed on a first-come, first-served basis from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the King Recreation Center, 1107 Adrian St., beginning Feb. 1. The program will last for 10 weeks. New restaurants and caterers are expected to be announced about halfway through the program.

The first Jackson-area restaurants taking part in Our Town are:

  • Bella Notte Ristorante, 137 W. Michigan Ave.
  • 308 Brass Rail, 308 W. Prospect St.
  • Big Guy Catering, 309 S. Jackson St.
  • Candi’s BZB Café, 225 S. Mechanic St.
  • Gene Davis & Sons Catering, 3575 Francis St.
  • Grand River Brewery, 117 W. Louis Glick Highway
  • Ixcanul, 7851 Spring Arbor Road
  • Jackson Coney Island, 615 E. Michigan Ave.
  • Knight’s Steakhouse & Grill, 2125 Horton Road
  • WestEnd Farm to Table, 414 W. Michigan Ave.

Restaurants are being paid $10 per meal and are expected to be locally owned restaurants or catering companies only, according to the application. Restaurants are also expected to locally source at least half of the food to further stimulate the local economy.

More information on how to volunteer or donate is available online here.

The “Our Town” meal program comes from nearly $500,000 of contributions from Consumers Energy, the Jackson Community Foundation, the Dream Maker Fund, the Enterprise Group Community Ventures Corporation and other sponsors.

Consumers Energy recently used the Our Town program to provide matching gift cards for small businesses across Michigan, including 400 to downtown Jackson businesses during the holiday season.

“Our amazing city of Jackson staff have been instrumental in getting this much-needed program going,” Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies said in a statement. “This partnership with Consumers Energy really speaks to the commitment of our community to make sure everyone is cared for during this ongoing pandemic and hunger issues are kept at the forefront.”


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