National WIC Association visits District Health Department #10 in Michigan

by Meryl Smith CLS MA RD

Quinney Harris,  Project Manager for DHD#10 CPHMC grant, visited Lake County, Michigan on Monday, August 8, 2016. Anne Bianchi, MS RD and Meryl Smith, CLS MA RD, co-project managers for this grant, as well as Jennikka Baldwin (and Zion, her 6 month old son) met with Quinney to review the grant activities and agenda for the day.  Lake County has a population of approximately 11,000 over 574 square miles.

Our windshield tour was quite extensive for the short time that we had. In addition to the persons mentioned above, Gordie, Moeller, food advocate and member of CHIL (Choosing Health in Lake County) coalition participated in our tour.  Unfortunately, we had to eliminate many of the sights, but we think Quinney got an idea of the expanse of the county and the length of time it took to get to a variety of sites. 

Our first stop was “The Tiki Hut”, located in Chase, MI. This farm has participated in CHIL’s farm market at the Health Department during Project Fresh. Paul Avery, owner, operator and farmer gave us a tour of his farm. Not only does he have produce plants, but we saw bunnies, rabbits, chickens, turkeys and more! The Tiki Hut sells right from the road and tries to sell at a nearby farm market in the neighboring county. 

Next, we visited the town of Idlewild, Baldwin. Idlewild is a vacation and community in Yates Township, located just east of Baldwin in southeast Lake County, a rural part of northwestern lower Michigan. During the first half of the 20th century, it was one of the few resorts in the country where African-Americans were allowed to vacation and purchase property, before such discrimination became illegal in 1964.  Idlewild was an active year-round community and was visited by well-known entertainers and professionals from throughout the country. At its peak it was the most popular resort in the Midwest and as many as 25,000 would come to Idlewild in the height of the summer season to enjoy camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, roller skating, and night-time entertainment. When the 1964 Civil Rights Act opened up other resorts to African-Americans, Idlewild's boomtown period subsided, but the community continues to serve as a vacation destination and retirement community, and as a landmark of African-American heritage. The Idlewild African American Chamber of Commerce was founded  for the purpose of promoting existing local businesses and for attracting newer ones to the Lake County area.  Coincidentally, Quinney has viewed the movie “Idlewild” and plays the soundtrack regularly. He had no idea that he would be touring it in his travels!

About 30 miles north (Irons, MI), we visited the Seventh Day Adventist Community center where food and clothing is distributed. This is a very small pantry and helps about 25 families per month. The director of this center is also an active participant in our coalition.
It’s about 12:45 and we dined at the local Iron’s Café, where the debut of the Healthy Menu guide was presented. After lunch, we returned back to Baldwin, MI where our coalition meeting was being held. Eleven members attended and we celebrated successes, challenges and future activities. 

Immediately following CHIL meeting, Quinney stayed to attend the Lake County Food Council Meeting. This is another group working side by side with us. Their goals and objectives are different but with an overall goal of access to healthy food. Quinney Harris response to the day, “Yes, it was a great site visit!  I was truly impressed by everyone’s energy/excitement, great ideas, and willingness to partner.  Thanks for welcoming me with your Michigan hospitality and providing such a good overview of the needs and assets in Lake County.”