Comstock Park, Mich. — Jan. 12, 2017 — In 2016, Feeding America West Michigan distributed more food than ever before.
The nonprofit hunger relief organization, based in Comstock Park, provided 28.9 million pounds of food and household goods to its network of food pantries, soup kitchens, child hunger agencies and partner food banks, a 6.1 percent increase over 2015. (Download the Press Release)
“This is now the fourth year in a row that we’ve been able to provide a record amount of food to people in need,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle. “I’m incredibly proud of the work our team has done to make this happen. Not only our staff, but also our donors, volunteers and agency partners.”
The biggest increase took place in the Upper Peninsula, which saw its food distribution increase by nearly a million pounds, from 2.2 million in 2015 to 3.1 million in 2016.
That increase is due in large part to a revamped strategy for serving the Upper Peninsula. That strategy aims to provide food directly to far-flung rural communities through its Mobile Food Pantry program and shipments to partner agencies. For more information about Feeding America West Michigan’s strategy for serving the Upper Peninsula, view the press release.
Throughout its 40-county service area, Feeding America West Michigan serves an estimated half million people each year.
Amy Chavez is one of them. Raising three grandchildren on her own and living on a retiree’s fixed income, Chavez receives food once a month from North End Community Ministry, one of Feeding America West Michigan’s partner agencies in Grand Rapids. Inspired by the assistance she receives, Chavez now volunteers at NECM regularly, assisting other clients and translating for them when needed.
“I can count on them,” she said of her NECM community. “I can feel comfortable in life knowing there’s a place like this that can help me. I have friends and have food on my table because of them.”
NECM is just one of nearly 1,100 local partner agencies Feeding America West Michigan supplies with food. Most of that food is donated by farmers, grocery stores and food processors, with high-demand items like peanut butter, turkey and canned vegetables purchased as needed.
Healthy food remains a priority. In that respect, 2016 was also a milestone year: For the second year in a row, fruits and vegetables accounted for 40 percent of the product the organization distributed.
“As a food bank, we have a responsibility to the families we serve to make sure they have access not just to calories but to food that’s truly nourishing and sustaining,” Estelle said.
Much of Feeding America West Michigan’s fresh produce, dairy products and other healthy, foods are distributed directly to clients through its Mobile Pantry program. Boosted by grant funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Mobile Pantry program grew by 10.2 percent in 2016, providing a total of 11.8 million pounds of food at 1,743 distributions.
With the grant period coming to a close, Feeding America West Michigan is seeking new donors to ensure that those Mobile Pantry distributions continue in 2017. That support is urgently needed, as one in eight people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula struggles to put food on the table.
“We invite anyone, whether they’re an individual, a business owner or a church group, to consider volunteering at a Mobile Pantry,” Estelle said. “When you see the impact your time and your gifts can have on local families, it’s really incredible.”
Food Insecurity Rates
West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula: 13 percent
Michigan: 15.7 percent
United States: 15.4 percent
Feeding America West Michigan Total: 28.9 million pounds (24 million meals)
Distribution in Upper Peninsula: 3.1 million pounds (2.6 million meals)
Percentage of Fruits and Vegetables: 40 percent
Number of Food Donors: 348
Individual Volunteers: 1,811
Volunteer Hours: 20,994
New Volunteers: 819
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. That food is distributed through a network of nearly 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.