United Way of Midland County is excited to announce the launch of a new collective impact program, ReGrow TogetherSM. In collaboration with eleven community partners, ReGrow TogetherSM is striving to empower people through access to healthy meals, job training, education and resources while reducing food waste.

The bold and innovative idea that sparked this initiative came to life during the pandemic. During the first iteration, over 31,000 nutritious meals were distributed and 60 restaurant employees were hired and/or retained. It helped local restaurants sustain through the COVID-19 crisis while also feeding vulnerable families.

The vision of this original program is living on through the transformation from ReGrow to ReGrow TogetherSM.

“Access to healthy food is one of the issue areas that we focus on at United Way,” shared Holly Miller, President and CEO of United Way of Midland County. “According to Feeding America, over 34 million people in the US are food insecure, including 9 million children. Locally that includes 9,000 people (11%) and almost 2,500 children (13%) that are classified as food insecure. Additionally, 30-40% of our food supply goes to waste each year, largely because we lack the systems to transform healthy ingredients into meals. The need for a solution is urgent, and that’s why we’re investing in ReGrow TogetherSM.”

United Way partners with Hidden Harvest, Midland County Emergency Food Pantry, Phoenix Community Farm, Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Arnold Center, MyMichigan Health, Windover High School, Midland Business Alliance, West Midland Family Center, Greater Midland North Family Center and Great Midland Coleman Family Center to bring this program to life.

“ReGrow TogetherSM is a scalable solution to tackle food insecurity,” shared Jason Story, Executive Director of ReGrow TogetherSM. “It leverages rescued surplus ingredients to create healthy meals, constructed by teens and adults learning culinary skills. Meals are distributed through our local nonprofit partners where people connect with other vital resources. At its core – it connects people through food.”


Each partner plays a key role in ensuring this program makes an impact. Food is collected and redistributed, meal prep and job training take place, meals are transported and distributed and neighbors are connected to resources.

Ingredients are secured through Hidden Harvest’s Rescue and Redistribution Program as well as Midland County Emergency Food Pantry and Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Produce is provided by Phoenix Community Farm and Arnold Farms to add additional fresh and healthy ingredients to the prepared meals.

“Being part of the ReGrow TogetherSM team is really exciting for us,” shared Sam McKenzie, President and CEO of Hidden Harvest. “At times, we rescue foods that people don’t know how to cook with – squash for example – and those items end up going to waste. Through this program, ingredients such as squash will not only be used in meals but will also demonstrate how a neighbor can prepare a meal at home using the ingredient that was once new to them.”

Meals are planned around the ingredients provided and are prepared into delicious ready-to-eat meals at two community kitchens – Windover High School and the Arnold Center. Windover High School’s culinary program teaches aspiring culinarians to be better chefs while learning creative problem-solving skills by determining how to use unique ingredients which is mirrored at the Arnold Center as participants learn valuable skills by helping to prepare and package the meals.

“When we are planning the meals, the menu is designed based on what ingredients we receive,” shared Chef Brian Clennan. “For example, if Hidden Harvest has rescued a large quantity of lentils, we will plan the meal ensuring that this item doesn’t go unused. This not only reduces food waste but also teaches people how to use unique healthy ingredients they may have otherwise never tried. This program also allows our unique students, who many times feel underserved, have a chance to serve others in a selfless, possibly life-changing, capacity.”

After the meals are prepared and packaged, they are distributed through local family centers at no charge. West Midland Family Center, Greater Midland North Family Center and Greater Midland Coleman Family Center are the current meal distribution partners, but the goal of the program is to expand further into the community by offering meals at more locations.


ReGrow TogetherSM officially launched at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. Hidden Harvest rescued the surplus food from the event and the Arnold Center team turned it into meals that were distributed throughout our region.

“We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to partner with the Dow GLBI to launch this program,” shared Miller. “The way our partners came together was an incredible testament to their commitment to our communities. In one week, enough food was rescued to produce over 3,500 meals. That impact is huge and wouldn’t have been possible without this partnership and the hard work of the team behind the scenes preparing, packaging and distributing the meals. This is just an example of how innovative this program can be, and how when we come together great impact can be made.”


United Way is working intentionally to pilot this in Midland County while creating a plan that can be replicated in other communities. The program’s pilot goal is to rescue enough food to produce 1,000+ meals each month with an average cost of $.25 per meal, then double the number of meals produced as the program builds capacity.

United Way shared that going forward, meals will be distributed monthly through their family center partners.

To learn more about ReGrow TogetherSM or about how you can get involved, visit ReGrowTogether.org.