Under any circumstance, raising a child isn’t easy. For families facing food insecurity, medical hardships or other challenges, it can be even harder to keep their bills paid and food on the table. The parents who attend Mobile Food Pantries have diverse stories but share the same goal: to help their children thrive.
After raising two children of their own, empty nesters Barb and Bob thought their parenting years were over. But then, early last year, they received a call from a good friend: She had both breast and lymph node cancer, and her foster son, who she was in the process of adopting, had nowhere to go. Could the couple take him in while she endured months of radiation treatments and surgery?
Barb and Bob didn’t hesitate to say “yes.”
“We have two kids of our own and two grandsons who graduated college, so when the little one started coming around, I was happy,” Barb said.
Their friend beat cancer, but a hernia and kidney blockage required yet another surgery – which meant that the boy would spend more time with Bob and Barb. The couple treats the now 2-year-old child as their own grandson, and they are grateful for the joy he brings to their lives.
His mother is doing better today and she and her son have been reunited, but her medical bills remain a barrier.
Barb and Bob are glad to step in to help their friend whenever they can. The monthly Mobile Food Pantry at St. Patrick & St. Anthony Parish in Grand Haven has been a welcome relief. Barb and Bob don’t pick up food for themselves when they go through the line, but are glad they can bring produce, milk and protein to their friend, helping her make ends meet and keep healthy food on the table for her growing son.
“[The Mobile Pantry] has been a blessing for her,” Barb said. “She really appreciates it.”
Like Bob and Barb, countless parents persevere through hardship to provide for their children. These parents include Diana who is no stranger to looking after children in need. She ran a daycare for parents in “welfare to work” programs, before moving across the country – from California to Michigan – a few weeks ago. Her daycare was open 16 hours a day, six days a week, enabling these struggling parents to work the hours they needed to keep their families afloat.
Now, Diana is utilizing Mobile Food Pantries to keep her own family afloat while she searches for a job in Michigan. Her father’s recent death caused her to pack up everything – including her daughters Kelcie, 7, and Marilyn, 11 – and return home to take care of her mother.
“It means a lot right now,” Diana said.
In addition to her time spent running the daycare, Diana spent many years fostering children. Marilyn and Kelcie were 4-years-old and 7-months-old when Diana took them in. Eight months after they arrived, they were available for adoption. Diana explained how someone wanted to adopt one of the girls but not the other. She hated seeing siblings separated so she decided to adopt them both herself. The girls have been with her ever since.
Nearly 80,000 children face hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Fortunately, Feeding America West Michigan’s agency partners, like A.C.T.I.O.N. Ministries Center, Victory Tabernacle and St. Patrick & St. Anthony Parish, are making strides to change this. These organizations ensure that, no matter their circumstances, families who attend their Mobile Pantries will feel equipped to provide the nourishment their children need to thrive.
Story written by Juliana Ludema, Communication Assistant