Mobile Food Pantries: Filling the SNAP gap in towns like Belding

Barb and Layla sitting in school hallway

Neighbors facing hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula often rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – previously known as food stamps – to make their paychecks stretch. For some, however, SNAP doesn’t provide enough wiggle room. Others make just a bit too much to qualify for the program. These neighbors must often choose between buying nutritious food and paying for other necessities.

Barb and Layla sitting in school hallway
Barbara and her daughter waiting to receive food

That’s where Mobile Food Pantries, like those hosted at Orchard Hills Elementary School, come in. Thanks to generous donors like the DTE Energy Foundation, families in Belding receive a variety of fresh options that will enable them to cook healthy, balanced meals, instead of going without or opting for unhealthy, less expensive foods.

Barbara just recently began attending the monthly Mobile Food Pantry at Orchard Hills to help feed her family of four. She and her husband, along with one of their two teenage daughters, work at a fast food restaurant where they make just a little more than minimum wage. Mobile Food Pantries provide relief for the family as they work to make ends meet.

When the girls were growing up, the family relied on SNAP, but now that their oldest daughter works, they no longer qualify. Barbara explained how the family must “pinch pennies” to survive each month. One way they do so is by saving the turkeys their workplace gives each of them at Thanksgiving. Some of their coworkers give them their turkeys so the family can freeze them and eat them throughout the year.

Layla holding a box in line to recieve food
Barbara is thankful she can attend Mobile Food Pantries to fill the gaps in her family’s cupboards with fresh produce and other items.

“It’s a big deal,” Barbara said.

Cheryl is another neighbor who visits the Mobile Food Pantry at Orchard Hills when she needs to. The resource was particularly helpful last month since one of her sons and his wife were staying with her as they worked to get back on their feet.

Cheryl and Hayden standing against wall
Cheryl and her grandson waiting to receive food

As a 66-year-old retiree, Cheryl relies on social security and a small pension to cover her bills. Sometimes, this isn’t enough. Since she doesn’t qualify for SNAP, Mobile Food Pantries help fill the gaps when they arise.

Cheryl has four kids, 11 grandkids and 19 great-grandkids, and many have needed to live with her for one reason or another. Having the option to visit a Mobile Food Pantry when times are tough means the world to Cheryl.

charyl and hayden bringing food outside     hayden in car with food behind him

Without the partnership of agencies like Orchard Hills, and organizations like DTE Energy, families like these would have fewer options when their paychecks – or SNAP benefits – don’t stretch far enough. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of these organizations, Feeding America West Michigan can continue to fight hunger in Ionia County.

Story written by Juliana Ludema, Communication Assistant