Fight Lead with Nutrition


January 20, 2016 -

The foods we prepare and serve to our families can help limit the absorption of lead. Three steps you can take when choosing and preparing food can make a difference:

  1. Choose a range of nutrient-dense food for overall health and to help make sure you have enough iron, calcium and vitamin C in your body.
  2. Eat regular meals and snacks.
  3. When preparing food, be sure to wash and cook with safe water



Iron can make it harder for lead to be absorbed in the body. Sources of iron include:

  • Red meat, fish and chicken
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Whole-grain: cereal, bread and pasta
  • Dried fruit
  • Beans, peas and lentils

Vitamin C is important for skin and bone health. Together with iron it may also help reduce lead absorption. Vitamin C is found in many fruit and vegetables. Sources of vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruit, like oranges and grapefruit, and their juices
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Veggies such as peppers, broccoli, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and more!
  • Fruit like peaches, strawberries, pears, watermelon and more!


Calcium keeps your bones strong and can help reduce lead absorption. Sources of calcium include:

  • Milk and milk products, like cheese and yogurt
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Tofu
  • Canned salmon and sardines (both with the bones in)



Lead isn’t good for anyone’s health, and it’s especially bad for small children and pregnant women. Keep your family lead-safe by avoiding contact with it. You and your children could be exposed to lead from a variety of sources including: old paint, dust, dirt, pottery, make-up, toys and some home remedies. If you are concerned about contaminated water, check with local authorities for safe water recommendations. Use of an NSF-certified filter or bottled water for drinking, cooking and mixing baby formula may be required. If using a filter, make sure to change the filter cartridge by the date printed on the package. If you have any concerns about lead or your child’s diet, talk to your doctor.



  • Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ):
  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program:; phone: 517-335-8885.
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):



Food Assistance in Genesee County

Commodities Food Program

This supplemental food program is designed to help low-income people aged 60 and up. Food is provided once a month. Call 810-789-3746 or

810-232-2185 for details.

Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB)

The DUFB program matches your SNAP benefits when you buy Michigan-grown fruit and vegetables. For example, if you buy $10 worth of Michigan produce, you’ll get an extra $10 to buy more fruit and veggies! You can use this program at:

  • Flint Farmer’s Market, 300 East 1st Street, Flint, phone 810-232-1399, open year round.
  • Landmark Food Centers (two Flint locations): 206 West Pierson Road, phone 810-789-7311, OR 4644 Fenton Road, phone 810-238-2972. Offered at limited times during the year, call to check dates and hours for both locations.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

TEFAP provides healthy food to qualified families and individuals once every three months at community distribution sites such as pantries and churches. Call GCCARD at 810-789-3746 or 810-232-2185 for details.

Food Bank of Eastern Michigan

The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan can connect you with food assistance programs. Call 810-239-4441 or visit for details.

Genesee County Health Department; phone: 810-257-3612

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The SNAP program (formerly called food stamps) provides low-income residents with money to purchase food, including:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Breads and cereals
  • Dairy, meat, fish and poultry

You’re also allowed to buy seeds and food-producing plants with your SNAP benefits to grow your own food. Apply for SNAP at or call the Genesee County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at 810-760-2200.

Women, Infants & Children (WIC)

The WIC program supplies extra food for low-income pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, and for infants and children up to 5 years old who are at nutritional risk. Food provided through WIC include:

  • Infant formula
  • Fruit and vegetables rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C
  • Whole-grain bread and cereals and iron-enriched cereals
  • Eggs, milk and cheese

To apply for WIC, call 800-262-4784 (toll-free) or 810-237-4537.

WIC Project Fresh

If you receive WIC benefits, you’re eligible to receive Project Fresh coupons to buy locally grown fruit and veggies! This program runs from June 1 through October 31 each year. For more information contact Genesee County WIC at 810-237-4537 or MSU Extension at 810-244-8500.

Additional Genesee County Resources


Service connects Genesee County residents to community resources including food, transportation, education, health care, water filters and replacement cartridges. Locally funded by United Way Genesee County. Contact them by phone at 211 or online at

Flint Water Department

Offers free water testing. Pick up test kits at 1101 South Saginaw Street, Flint; phone 810-787-6537.

Genesee County Community Action Resource Department (GCCARD)

Offers free water filters, phone

810-789-3746 or 810-232-2185.

Michigan State University Extension

Offers free nutrition education classes and soil testing for lead. Phone 810-244-8500.



Iron Deficiency Anemia Prevention: Diseases and Conditions. Mayo Clinic. (2014). Retrieved from

Lead and a Healthy Diet: What You Can Do to Protect Your Child [EPA-747-F01-004]. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. (2001). Retrieved from

Learn About Lead [overview and fact sheets]. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2015). Retrieved from

Nutrition and Lead Poisoning Prevention. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Retrieved from

Soil Lead: Testing, Interpretation, and Recommendations. University of Massachusetts Amherst, Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory. (n.d.). Retrieved from



These materials were funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) by way of Michigan State University Extension, and also by Hurley Children’s Hospital.

Produced by ANR Creative Services for MSU Extension (


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