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Sparrow Hospital begins new initiative to combat food insecurity

September 28, 2021
<p>The exterior of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, on Sept. 23, 2020.</p>

The exterior of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, on Sept. 23, 2020.

According to, Michigan had the sixth-highest rate of projected food insecurity in 2020. Pregnant women are one of the largest victims of this. 

This leads kids not only to grow up in food-insecure households but face health issues from birth due to hunger and low nutritional intake both during and after pregnancy. 

These statistics are no longer just numbers with no action, due to several figures in the Lansing community seeking to mitigate food insecurity.

President of Sparrow Hospital Alan Vierling, Nursing Director at Sparrow Hospital Toniye Andrews-Johnson and MSU College of Nursing lead Jiying Ling pioneered a program to provide for food-insecure families in their time of need. 

The new program at Sparrow Hospital started as they noticed the struggle in their pregnant patients and the effects food insecurity had on their fetuses. The hospital took on the mission of improving the health of people in mid-Michigan by piloting a project to identify and assist food-insecure new moms and their families. 

The program is not a “one time thing” and provides access to pantries and food banks, Johnson said. The program requires patients to complete an online survey two times and participate in a healthy eating program. 

Participants will then receive a crockpot, a cookbook, groceries and a healthy eating/motivational text message three times a week. Participants will also learn healthy eating tips. 

The collaboration of these two teams occurred due to Ling’s involvement in similar past projects, such as her work with the head-start program and her cookbook, “The Tasty Healthy Cookbook,” which she created to include healthier and quicker options for students on campus. 

In 2016, Ling said she received pressure to include more recipes in the cookbook due to its successful impact on the lives of many students and their families. 

Vierling and Johnson had heard about the cookbook and asked Ling if it were a good idea to adapt this to target the pregnant woman with food insecurity.

“Now, pregnant women have the same issue,” Ling said. “They don't have much time to cook, and the females also have food insecurity, which means they may have some financial problems, too. So, we tried to kind of expand the cookbook to pregnant women's security.”

While Vierling and Johnson initiated the project at Sparrow, MSU students and Ling’s project manager Kristen Bilyea put time and effort into developing the evidence-based, fun, healthy and low-cost recipes. Finally, the Michigan Endowment Fund and the National Institute of Health financially supported the development of “The Tasty Healthy Cookbook.”

Both Johnson and Ling were inspired by their own experiences and jobs. 

“Personally, I have two young children, too,” Ling said. “Majority was single mom, you know, with the young children. So, they really also don’t have much time to prepare a healthy meal for the family. That's kind of known from my own experience, and the observation of working with these families.”

If interested or want to recommend this program, you can contact or text/call 517-914-7692 with any questions.

Though this is just the beginning of the program, the future for it aims to be great, Johnson said.

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