As Jennifer Adams sees it, making sure residents have access to plenty of nutritious food is an important aspect of her job as the service coordinator, or NaviGuide, for two affordable housing communities in rural Indiana. Thanks to Adams’ extraordinary efforts, residents at Maple Leaf Commons and the Oakhaven Community enjoy year-round support from local organizations.

“When people move in, their concern about food insecurity is one of the first things they talk about,” Adams said. “Even if they’ve eaten that day, they’re concerned about tomorrow. Knowing that we will help meet their most basic physiological needs – not just shelter, but food, as well – scratches hunger off their list of worries.


“Three out of four residents in the Oakhaven and Maple Leaf communities participate in food programs available through various partnerships,” she continued. “Relationships are everything in terms of meeting our residents’ needs, and we’re fortunate to have such dedicated partners.”

“Jennifer is well-established and ridiculously gifted at finding entitlement benefits,” said Kim Yoder, United Church Homes (UCH) Engage and NaviGuide program director. “If I had to use just one word to describe her, it would be ‘advocate.’”

Adams works with five local partners to ensure that residents have access to fresh, nutritious food: the Marshall County Community Foundation; REAL Services; Food Bank of Northern Indiana; Faith Mission; and, Cultivate Food Rescue.

Monthly commodity and senior food boxes delivered to Maple Leaf Commons don’t just include nonperishable items, but also cheese, meat, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and household items like toilet paper and laundry detergent. Special holiday meals are delivered to residents for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Oakhaven residents receive a wide variety of fresh foods “rescued” from local sources and have easy access to an onsite food pantry. They, too, receive monthly commodity and senior food boxes and a special holiday dinner at Christmas.

Residents in both communities also participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program which provides low-income seniors with access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs.

Much of the food that’s always on hand is made available in common areas, allowing residents to take whatever they need. In some cases, they donate nonperishable food items they don’t want or need to other residents.

“The Oakhaven and Maple Leaf communities are in somewhat remote areas,” Yoder said.  “But Jennifer is still so successful in finding strong partners who share her commitment to supporting those in need.  She cares deeply about residents in the communities she serves and is their strongest advocate.”