Without food donations acquired from retailers like Walmart, a large portion of Feeding America West Michigan’s service area would go without access to a nutritious food source. Thanks to a generous donation of $15,000 from the Walmart Foundation, the food bank is able to acquire more fresh food donations from retail partners for over 900 partner agencies while reducing food insecurity in clients.
Feeding America West Michigan is making the most of the Walmart Foundation grant by expanding the number of agencies that pick food up directly from local retail locations, also known as direct retail pickups. Continued growth in direct retail pickups helps agencies deliver fresher food to clients faster. This strategy helps foster a more personal relationship between agency and store, as well as allowing for more pickups to happen throughout the week.
TrueNorth Community Services is one of the agencies that benefits from direct retail pickups. Operating out of Fremont, TrueNorth is an organization that fights poverty and provides assistance ranging from housing and youth programs to family support and tax preparation. Since 1949, the Newaygo County community has been able to rely on programs provided by TrueNorth when facing difficulties. The organization is an exclusive recipient of retail acquisitions from the Fremont area Walmart and have direct retail pickups from the store five days a week. TrueNorth receives 838 pounds of food through retail donations every week, which goes directly into the hands of local families. Since April 2017, the nonprofit has received more than 48,000 pounds of food.
Bradley Hinken, health and community solutions division director of TrueNorth, sees how food acquisitions impact the lives of their clients. Food insecure individuals and families in Newaygo County now have access to the same high-quality meat, produce, and bakery products that are found on Walmart shelves. In any given month, TrueNorth averages 555 visits. Providing food for 1,355 people in a month can be difficult, but the fresh produce and goods make clients happy.
The variety of offerings plays a role in the self-esteem of clients while using the pantry as well. The different options make things feel less like a food pantry and more like a retail market. “I think that the variety of fresh produce, meat, and bakery products changes the atmosphere,” Hinken said. “Seeing happy clients helps to boost the morale of our volunteers and staff.”
TrueNorth’s mission is to “empower people and strengthen community to inspire hope and build a brighter future”, and Feeding America West Michigan is happy to play a role in their efforts. Thanks to the support received from the Walmart Foundation, the Fremont organization can continue to inspire hope for those struggling with the necessities.
Story written by Nathan Umoh, Social Media Intern