Feeding America West Michigan to double number of UP meals served in February

Feeding America West Michigan plans to send seven Mobile Food Pantries into Upper Peninsula communities this month.

Feeding America West Michigan plans to send seven Mobile Food Pantries into Upper Peninsula communities this month.

Manistique, Mich. — Feb. 1, 2016 — On Thursday, Feb. 25, Feeding America West Michigan will be providing food to an estimated 300 families at the Schoolcraft County Fairgrounds in Manistique. This Mobile Food Pantry is part of a major expansion of hunger-relief services to the Upper Peninsula the organization announced last month.

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“There has been unmet need in the Upper Peninsula for years. We realized that if we were going to change that, it would take a new approach,” said Ken Estelle, CEO of Feeding America West Michigan.

In the past, partner agencies had to drive to one of Feeding America West Michigan’s branch warehouses in Ishpeming or Sault Ste. Marie to collect food for their pantries or meal programs, making it difficult to supply more remote communities. Under its new approach, Feeding America West Michigan is bringing the food directly to agencies and people in need.

The result: Feeding America West Michigan expects to distribute 152,000 meals in the Upper Peninsula this month, an increase of 114 percent over February 2015.

Feeding America West Michigan began sending Mobile Pantries into Manistique after the paper mill closed last year. Good Neighbor Services, which has worked with Feeding America West Michigan to stock its food pantry for years, acts as the local coordinator, organizing volunteers and spreading the word to people in need.

Co-director Margo Withey says the need is high in Manistique.

“The people visiting our food pantry have better than doubled since the mill went down,” Withey said, explaining that Feeding America West Michigan’s Mobile Pantries have enabled Good Neighbor to serve many more than it otherwise could.

“It’s a blessing to this community, to the whole Upper Peninsula, that we’re able to get this food into these areas. There’s a lot of people who would be going without [otherwise].”

The biggest hurdle in serving the Upper Peninsula is funding, Estelle says. The cost of each Mobile Pantry is covered by grants or donations from individuals, and Feeding America West Michigan is in need of new partners to support its outreach.

“We invite anyone who’s interested in working with us to come out and see a Mobile Pantry in action, see the impact we can have when the community works together.”

The Feb. 25 Mobile Pantry will begin at 11 a.m. at the Schoolcraft County Fairgrounds and is intended to serve seniors in need and those experiencing financial hardship.

Upcoming Mobile Pantries*

Feb. 11:
Hannahville Community Center, Hannahville, 11 a.m.
1705 Ash Street, Ishpeming, 10 a.m.

Feb. 12:
Cooks Congregational Church, Garden, 10 a.m.

Feb. 17:
Webster Elementary School, Escanaba, 2 p.m.

Feb. 18:
Abundant Life Mission Center, Menominee, 10 a.m.

Feb. 25:
Schoolcraft County Fairgrounds, Manistique, 11 a.m.

Feb. 26:
Norway Community Food Pantry, Norway, 5 p.m.

*Note: Mobile Pantry dates, times and locations are weather dependent.

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About Feeding America West Michigan.
Serving local families in need since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan reclaims safe surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. We distribute that food through a network of more than 1,100 food pantries, youth programs, and other hunger-relief agencies in 40 counties from the Indiana border through the Upper Peninsula. Each year, an estimated 492,100 people receive food from Feeding America West Michigan. For more information, visit FeedWM.org.

Food Bank Announces New Hunger-Relief Strategy for Upper Peninsula

Comstock Park, Mich. — Jan. 12, 2016 — Feeding America West Michigan is announcing a new strategy for solving hunger in the Upper Peninsula. Within the next two months, Feeding America West Michigan will complete its transition to a more nimble, responsive distribution model that has the potential to bring 50 percent more food — including a much higher percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meats — to people in the Central and Eastern Upper Peninsula.

“As the need has grown over the last decade we had to rethink what we were doing,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle. “We know we have the ability to fully meet the need in the UP — we have the food. It’s just a matter of getting it where it needs to go. This strategy will do that.”

Two years ago, Feeding America West Michigan introduced a new distribution model for the Upper Peninsula on a limited basis. It incorporated three methods: direct delivery to hunger-relief agencies; “depot deliveries” where multiple agencies place large-scale orders together and collect the food at a central location; and Mobile Food Pantries, which provide food directly to clients.

Mobile Pantries, like those in Escanaba, Menominee and the Hannahville Indian Community this fall, can provide thousands of pounds of food to hundreds of clients in the space of two or three hours. Requiring nothing more than a parking lot and a group of volunteers, Mobile Pantries are ideal for serving communities that lack traditional food pantries.

Even on a limited basis, this model increased food distribution by 23 percent in 2015. Feeding America West Michigan is now transitioning completely to that model this year. As part of this move, the organization will be closing its branch warehouses in Sault Ste. Marie and Ishpeming by the end of March.

“To put it simply, we’ve outgrown these facilities,” Estelle said. “The cost of a physical expansion was not practical, and it would not have improved our ability to meet the needs in the community nearly as much as this new model will.”

“We look forward to a day when every single person in our region has access to good, healthy food at all times. I believe this strategy will make that happen,” Estelle said.

Two full-time and three part-time staff members will be affected by the branch closings. Distribution to the Western UP Food Bank, Feeding America West Michigan’s partner in Houghton, will not be affected by this change.

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About Feeding America West Michigan. Serving local families in need since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan reclaims safe surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. We distribute that food through a network of more than 1,100 food pantries, youth programs, and other hunger-relief agencies in 40 counties from the Indiana border through the Upper Peninsula. Each year, an estimated 492,100 people receive food from Feeding America West Michigan. For more information, visit FeedWM.org.

Food Bank Announces Third-Consecutive Record Year

Feeding America West Michigan brought Mobile Pantries to hundreds of sites throughout West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, including Parkview Elementary in Wyoming, Mich. (Photo Credit: Feeding America)

Feeding America West Michigan brought Mobile Pantries to hundreds of sites throughout West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, including Parkview Elementary in Wyoming, Mich. (Photo Credit: Feeding America)

Comstock Park, Mich. — Jan. 13, 2016 — Feeding America West Michigan just finished up its third record year in a row, distributing 27.6 million pounds of food in 2015, the equivalent of 22 million meals. That’s an increase of 1.1 million pounds over 2014.

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“I’m incredibly proud of the work our staff, volunteers and partner agencies have done to make this happen,” said CEO Ken Estelle. “It truly is a testament to the creativity and generosity of our community.”
Not only did total distribution increase — distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables grew from a quarter to more than a third of the food bank’s output. A large part of that growth can be attributed to the expansion of the food bank’s Mobile Pantry Program.

In 2015, Feeding America West Michigan received a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to bring Mobile Pantries to schools and senior centers throughout West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Each Mobile Pantry provides fresh produce, dairy products and baked goods to between 100 and 200 households. Requiring little more than a parking lot and a few volunteers, Mobile Pantries are ideal for serving rural and urban communities that lack traditional food pantries or accessible grocery stores.

In all, Feeding America West Michigan conducted more than 1,600 Mobile Pantry distributions in 2015. Estelle is pushing to increase that number this year, particularly in the Upper Peninsula, where need is high and local resources scarce.
“We’ve seen what can happen when communities are united on the issue of hunger,” Estelle said, pointing to Wexford County, where the Cadillac Area Community Foundation and the Cadillac Rotary Club have underwritten the food bank’s Mobile Pantry Program for years.

Other standout supporters of 2015 include the Fremont Area Community Foundation; United Way offices in Ottawa County, Southwest Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie; the Upton Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.
The year also saw enthusiastic support from individual donors, with online giving growing by 23 percent.
Looking back over the year, Estelle feels optimistic about 2016:

“Too many of our neighbors still struggle to afford the basics, but more and more, we’re seeing that people get it. They understand the need and they want to get involved. I firmly believe that if businesses, foundations, churches and individuals come together, we can solve hunger in our region.”

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About Feeding America West Michigan. Serving local families in need since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan reclaims safe surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. We distribute that food through a network of more than 1,100 food pantries, youth programs, and other hunger-relief agencies in 40 counties from the Indiana border through the Upper Peninsula. Each year, an estimated 492,100 people receive food from Feeding America West Michigan. For more information, visit FeedWM.org.

115,000 meals donated on #GivingTuesday

FAWM Giving Tuesday

Comstock Park, Mich. — Dec. 2, 2015 — “Incredible.” That’s how Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle describes the response to his organization’s #GivingTuesday appeal.

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In the five-day online campaign that culminated yesterday, a total of $18,682 was donated by 127 individuals, securing the full $10,000 match pledged by a generous donor. The total $28,682 will fund the distribution of nearly 115,000 meals in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

For comparison, just $2,700 was donated online during the same period last year.

“We’re floored by these results,” Estelle said. “To us, it proves that our community hasn’t lost focus on local hunger, or on their ability to do something about it.”

Feeding America West Michigan received donations from as far afield as Salt Lake City, in amounts ranging from $10 to $1,500. The owner of one local company read about the campaign online and sent an employee over to the Food Bank with a $2,000 check.

“Everyone can contribute something, regardless of your means,” Estelle said, noting that the Food Bank was also full of volunteers — as it is every Tuesday — sorting and packing food by hand.

To support Feeding America West Michigan as a donor or a volunteer, visit feedwm.org.

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About Feeding America West Michigan. Serving local families in need since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan reclaims safe surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. We distribute that food through a network of more than 1,100 food pantries, youth programs, and other hunger-relief agencies in 40 counties from the Indiana border through the Upper Peninsula. Each year, an estimated 492,100 people receive food from Feeding America West Michigan. For more information, visit feedwm.org.