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.

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