Food or Medicine?

Food or Medicine: A Community Reality

We are grateful to be able to share a brief update to this article with some positive feedback and good news, which you’ll find at the bottom of this page.

We recently shared that the food pantry has provided more than double the meals from a year ago - a total of 18,368 meals in July. In addition, nearly 10,000 additional meals were served through the Community Kitchen and Monthly Food Distribution. Every meal helps people lead healthier lives and move forward on paths to overcome their challenges.

These meals help guests like Laura*, whose medicine costs over $200 a month. She’s had to choose between having enough food to eat, or buying the medicine essential to managing her ongoing health needs - a lose/lose choice. She learned about food and hunger resources available in our food pantry through a referral from Ottawa County’s Pathways to Better Health program, and was able to take advantage of the fresh produce and selection of items balanced across food groups. Having enough healthy food to eat supports her overall well-being and is part of her plan of care, in support of positive health outcomes. Having both food and medicine is a relief.

Laura’s reality is not unique. Food pantry guests often cite their medical needs as causes of food and financial insecurity. We firmly believe no one should have to choose between medical care and having enough to eat, especially when recognizing that the two are so closely linked. 

Laura’s reality is our reality, and the reality of our community. While seeking systems-wide forward movement for our most vulnerable neighbors, our plan of action in the present is to meet the needs we serve best: hunger, financial mobility, connection, and community. We’re strengthening collaborations with local resource providers, and constantly driving excellence to enhance the dignity and respect we show our guests. Expanding our hours and days served, expanding the number of visits that guests have each year, and doing everything a little bit better every day - all mean that we’re earning the trust of our neighbors with every meal provided.

UPDATE: We recently heard back from Laura, who connected with CAH’s Food Security Supervisor, Melissa Roessing:

“Laura just called me all excited to tell me that the Medicaid we'd applied for together for her just came through! She said, "You have no idea what this means to me. It's $2 copays for visits! I can afford to see my doctors again & get my medication!" She was just thrilled. Such a thoughtful action to notify us about that.”

*Please note that certain details, including names, have been altered and/or omitted to respect the privacy of our guests.

Fourteen years from struggling with food to first time home owner

Community Action House provides financial empowerment and homebuyer education services to over 150 families every year. In our first meeting with any client, we explain the various services offered. Housing Counselor Ana Pena recently met with a couple in the process of purchasing  their first home. To her surprise, the wife was already familiar with all we do. As it turns out, she had moved to Holland from Saginaw in 2005 to be close to her son, and had struggled to find a steady job. Only able to find work part time, she found herself in a vulnerable position, barely able to make ends meet. Fourteen years ago, she heard about Community Action House, and was able to find help in the food pantry while slowly building a stable life here.

Fast forward to 2019. Having been in her job for eleven years, she came to us to attend a homebuyer education class, which has helped her complete her first home purchase! Matched with down payment assistance, she is now a proud first time homeowner. In addition to the pride of achieving a significant milestone, she also has the stability that comes with home ownership. Over time, she’ll build up a considerable asset, providing more financial stability and autonomy for herself and her family.

She tells her friends that "there is hope, we need to accept help and move forward." She’s made incredible progress over the years, and we’re proud that we were there for her in her darkest hour, and to have been there recently to celebrate a key milestone with her as she completed her first home purchase!

CAH’s next Homebuyer Education Workshop will be held on Thursday, August 8, 2019, and is offered at no cost to Allegan and Ottawa County Residents. Find a full calendar, contact, and more on our website at

Contributor to this article: Ana Pena, CAH Housing Counselor

Refresh: Hygiene & Hope Update by WZZM

We’re grateful for WZZM’s coverage of Refresh: Hygiene & Hope, our program designed to connect with individuals experiencing homelessness. We’re especially grateful to Noah Fromson for his attention to this program serving some of our community’s most vulnerable members.

Refresh is open on Tuesday mornings, and offers showers, respite, connection with local resources, light snack, and mail service. Services are available on a walk-in basis at 57 W 10th Street, Holland, MI. Find updates and more at the Refresh Facebook Page.


Angela Maxwell, Homeless Outreach Specialist | (616) 392-2368 ext. 130

Link to full article on WZZM