Solving Senior Hunger in Grand Rapids

Ransom Tower Apartments works with Feeding America West Michigan to provide food to seniors like Artie Smith, second from left.

After her husband passed away, Artie Smith moved in with her daughters in Grand Rapids. Three years ago, she made the transition to Ransom Tower Apartments, a facility for low-income seniors run by the Grand Rapids Housing Commission. At 80 years old, she had never lived alone before, and she didn’t know what to expect.

What she found was a community of residents and staff she can’t say enough good things about.

“I just thank God every day because they are so good to us,” Smith said. “I’m just elated over it.”

A big part of Smith’s comfort comes from knowing that the Ransom Tower food pantry, a Feeding America West Michigan agency, is there to help her when her food runs low, which happens the second week of every month as she waits for her food assistance benefits to renew.

“They give me so much food my pantry is full,” she said of the pantry.

The "Three Musketeers": Artie Smith, center, and her friends Julia and Sandy cook and eat together often.
The “Three Musketeers”: Artie Smith, center, and her friends Julia and Sandy cook and eat together often.

In 2012, 15.3 percent of American seniors faced the threat of hunger. Through its relationship with Feeding America West Michigan, the Grand Rapids Housing Commission is able to provide food to the roughly 500 seniors who live in Ransom Tower, Leonard Terrace, Mount Mercy, and Sheldon Apartments.

Smith and her friends Julia and Sandy (the self-styled “The Three Musketeers”) eat together almost every day. Resident services specialist Eulondon Reeves said Smith has become like a mother to the community there, even preparing a thank-you lunch for the staff earlier this month.

But taking care of people is nothing new for Smith. Years ago, she ran the food pantry at First Baptist Church in Baldwin, where her husband was pastor. She supported the ministry with the income from her beauty salon and stocked it with food from Feeding America West Michigan.

Without the Food Bank, Smith said, she wouldn’t have been able to keep the pantry open.

“There are so many people out here that need food,” Smith said. “God bless you for what you’re doing.”

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