Michigan’s unemployment rate inched down to 4.6 percent in June, the lowest point since February 2001. A significant change from a few years ago when our state’s unemployment rate soared to the worst in the nation, above 14 percent. Despite the change, food insecurity is still an issue in our state. The reality is millions of Americans continue to struggle financially as a result of the 2008 crash. According to The Atlantic, post-recession wage growth, though real, has been wildly unequal.
About 1.5 million people in Michigan – that’s about one in seven – struggle with food insecurity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food security as "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.”
Meanwhile, due to cuts in our state, some food assistance benefits were affected, impacting many households, including the elderly and those with disabilities.
All of this means our network of food banks, food pantries and their funders are left scrambling to feed the people who have been hit hardest by these cuts.
The Michigan Health Philanthropy Scan, a report prepared by CMF's public policy fellow and Public Sector Consultants for the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, revealed that about 7 percent of the giving (from the 40 largest foundations in the state who list health as one of their priorities) went to programs that support food banks, food security and hunger issues. That 7 percent translates to about $8.8 million dollars in funding. Numerous CMF members are focused on this issue.
- Fremont Area Community Foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to food pantry support.
- Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Kresge Foundation, and many other CMF members are strong supporters of Double Up Food Bucks! program, which improves access to healthy food in underserved communities. The program doubles the amount of fresh, healthy food a family can purchase using their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Bridge Card. If a family spends $10 on fruits and vegetables with their SNAP Bridge Card at a farmers market in the state, they automatically get another $10 to spend on produce.
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded a grant to the Kids' Food Basket in Grand Rapids to expand its Sack Supper Program at elementary schools with a high level of food insecurity. Within the past month, Kids' Food Basket has handed out more than 29,000 sack suppers to kids in West Michigan.
- McGregor Fund has given grant money to Forgotten Harvest, an organization that collects surplus food from grocery stores, farms and markets and delivers it to 280 emergency food pantries, shelters and kitchens in the Detroit area.
It’s a statewide problem, with an ongoing push from philanthropy to make sure fresh and healthy food options are available to all Michigan families.
Want to get involved? Check out what our CMF member health funders are doing, connect with the organizations and the research from the Michigan Health Philanthropy Scan.
Join the CMF Health Funders Affinity Group.
Michigan’s prison population has been steadily declining, finally dipping below 42,000 inmates for the first time in nearly 20 years. Prison officials said the number has decreased due to fewer people being sentenced to prison and successful programs keeping those on parole from returning to prison.
The work continues in our state to develop resources and training programs to help prisoners contribute to their communities when they return home. Three Michigan colleges have now signed on to provide nearly 1,500 prisoners with access to higher education through a $30 million federal pilot program that awards financial aid to inmates.
This summer, the Department of Education selected 67 colleges and universities nationwide to participate in the new Second Chance Pell pilot program. Delta College, Jackson College and Mott Community College will represent Michigan’s portion of the program.
The chosen colleges and universities will partner with more than 100 federal and state penal institutions to enroll roughly 12,000 incarcerated students in educational and training programs beginning with the fall semester. Combined, the three Michigan colleges will offer federal Pell Grants to as many as 1,475 qualified students who are incarcerated and are likely to be released within five years of enrolling in coursework. Jackson College will award 1,305, the most grants in the country
This program comes on the heels of the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project, an experiment conducted in Michigan, North Carolina and New Jersey and run by the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice. Funded in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Pathways from Prison is focused on connecting inmates with postsecondary education, skills training and livable wage jobs once they’re released. Pathways from Prison concluded a two-year program at the Macomb Correctional Facility this spring; it’s expected many of the students will continue their education with the Second Chance Pell program in the fall.
In Michigan, the state spends nearly $30 million on programming to help inmates find success once they are released. In a May edition of the Weekly Download we told you about The Vocational Village at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility, a program training about 180 inmates in trades such as construction, plumbing, electrical and auto repair, to help them secure a job once they’re released.
Governor Rick Snyder has called for stronger reentry efforts to connect inmates with the workforce to reduce recidivism rates. Snyder noted Michigan is a leader in the field, calling the current recidivism rate of 29 percent, the lowest in the state’s history.
Improving education and vocational services for inmates is part of the Michigan Department of Correction’s Strategic Plan, the five-year plan includes goals to effectively prepare inmates to successfully transition back to their communities.
Read more about Michigan’s participation in the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell pilot program.
Summer at Detroit Public Schools
There’s been a lot of work behind-the-scenes, even in the summer months, as the school district and area foundations continue to focus on efforts to improve the lives of area students. This month, Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) officials announced S.T.E.A.M.y Summer in Detroit, a series of late-summer educational programs designed to engage learning and back-to-school readiness throughout the month of August. Enrollment fairs will be held on Saturdays at several educational and engaging sites, including The Michigan Science Center (MSC), sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The events have been designed to fight what interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather calls “the summer slide” that happens when summer school ends and there is a gap before school starts September 6.
The program is expected to expand as enrollment events are aimed at attracting new students. Under the state’s new $617 million restructuring plan, state and local officials are working hard to win back students who left the under-performing urban district for city charter schools or schools in Detroit’s suburbs.
According to the Detroit Free Press, district officials have built next year's budget around a 1.8 percent enrollment decline, which would bring the district to about 45,500 full-time equivalent students. Meriweather said officials are hoping to prove those projections wrong.
Promoting community involvement and safety also helps students with success in the long run and certainly extends to doing better in school and encourages them to want to come back. The Skillman Foundation is presenting the Detroit Safe Summer Youth Jam in a partnership with the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, which is an effort to support positive interaction between the city’s youth and its police department. The Skillman Foundation also recently shared a blog citing that 56 percent of Detroit kids live in households that struggle to make ends meet, putting limits on every resource, including out-of-school programming. This summer the foundation is providing more than a million dollars through their Youth Development Fund to support more than 20 organizations who provide youth development programs to Detroit kids. Such programs are examples of the efforts area organizations and foundations are committed to for the students of Detroit: retaining them, engaging them, and providing support.
At CMF's 44th Annual Conference in September, you’ll have a chance to sit down and talk with Meriweather about the future of the school district. She will host a Big Thoughts, Quick Talks table, sharing the district’s goals and challenges for educating Detroit children.
Grand Rapids Community Foundation Awards Over $1 Million in Scholarships
Grand Rapids Community Foundation awarded 630 scholarships to deserving students. This year’s awards totaled the foundation’s largest sum yet of $1,148,150 million.
“We are pleased to be able to award over $1 million for the third consecutive year,” Ruth Bishop, Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s education program officer said. “Each year the program adds new scholarship funds, which means we expect to see this trend continue.”
Committed to creating and maintaining a community that values diversity and fosters inclusion, the community foundation awarded 47 percent of scholarships to first-generation college students and 30 percent to diverse populations.