Sadly, many families in Manatee County struggle to put food on the table. While there are several resources available to help ensure those in need don’t go hungry, the Nutrition Initiative of Manatee (NIM) takes things a step further.
This local nonprofit group offers a two-fold program that (1) addresses food insecurity for families with children and (2) helps teach those families how to make tasty, healthy meals on a limited budget. This approach not only helps them get through temporary times of hardship but also makes a lifelong impact.
The group’s founder, Leslie McHugh, said that she and co-founder Carissa Preston first became aware of the need when they were volunteering with Feeding Empty Little Tummies (FELT), an organization that provides meals to homeless students. Coming from a passion for both cooking and nutrition, they saw an opportunity to create a program that was the first of its kind.
Families that register for their 8-week program receive a weekly grocery delivery that includes fresh produce and high-quality proteins as well as a recipe with step-by-step instructions to make the “meal of the week.” The grocery delivery also includes several days worth of supplemental groceries and repurposing instructions for leftovers.
Every Tuesday, the organization’s volunteers head out to deliver the groceries to the participating families. If they prefer, families can also come to NIM’s location and pick up their groceries instead. When they do, they have the option of choosing some extra groceries from NIM’s supplemental shelves.
The kids are also welcome to choose a book to take home with them. The hope is that this small treat will help them to enjoy something positive during an otherwise challenging time.
Many of the families participating in the program don’t quite qualify for food stamps and other assistance but still need help getting through their particular set of circumstances, like an unexpected illness, loss of employment, or loss of the other parent, leaving one as the sole provider. Families can easily apply for assistance by filling out NIM’s simple application.
Nutrition Initiative of Manatee’s program is available to any Manatee County family with an immediate need — as long as they have children. Part of NIM’s mission is to help children gain an appreciation for eating healthy meals. They also encourage parents to get the kids involved in helping out in the kitchen and sitting down together for family dinners.
When families first sign, up, they receive a welcome kit that includes staples they’ll need throughout the program, like flour, olive oil, seasonings, and other basic pantry staples. The weekly grocery kits also often include fresh herbs and seasonal ingredients.
Some of the meals on the current rotation include Sous Vide Chicken Salad & Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Asian Sea Bass, Couscous/Veggies & Lemon Beurre Blanc, and Angus Cheeseburger Bowls. They’re delicious and budget-friendly — and you can find them all on the recipe page of NIM’s website!
NIM also sometimes hosts a “Community All-Call” where anyone is welcome to come by and pick up ingredients to make a meal. This allows them to help out more families in the community, including some that have completed the 8-week program but still also need some occasional assistance.
It’s hard to imagine, but this organization runs with only approximately 10 volunteers and relies almost exclusively on donations!
If you’re interested in helping out with this amazing cause, you can make a cash donation on their website, contact them to discuss volunteer opportunities, or check out Palmetto Spin – a fun and exciting way to donate!
Also, be sure to follow NIM on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on all their upcoming fundraising events and other announcements. If you reach out to them, don’t forget to tell them you heard about it on Discover Bradenton!