Chef Tim has always hated food waste, but when the Advantage Marketing chef began performing cooking demonstrations for Meijer stores, he noticed leftovers were difficult to avoid.
He began bringing some of this leftover food to soup kitchens – a time-consuming task – until, one day, when he arrived with a donation, an employee asked him, “What the heck are you doing? Donate it to Feeding America [West Michigan]!”
Ever since this encounter, Chef Tim has given his leftovers to the food bank, knowing the food will stretch far through our network of more than 900 partner agencies.
Now, Chef Tim is doing even more to serve neighbors facing hunger by creating and sharing recipes using the items provided at Mobile Food Pantries he attends. Giving neighbors tangible examples of meals they can make with the unfamiliar items, like rutabaga or kohlrabi – provided by the food bank’s partner farms – empowers them to make the most of the food they receive.
The first of these recipe demonstrations occurred last month at Brookside Christian Reformed Church. Chef Tim decided to start simple with a garden salad packed with farm-fresh ingredients like cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Future demonstrations will showcase ways to use more-challenging foods.
On this day, Chef Tim was accompanied by other members of the Advantage Marketing team, including Brooke, the organization’s senior client service manager. She was instrumental in the development of the concept and helped make it a reality. As a member of Advantage’s “Three Cheers” team, she spearheads many fundraisers for local nonprofits. This is not the first time Feeding America West Michigan has been a beneficiary of the team’s generosity. The company has utilized bake sales, silent auctions and other types of fundraisers to help put food on the plates of neighbors facing hunger.
Brooke helps Chef Tim put on cooking demos for Meijer stores, so she thought Mobile Food Pantries were the perfect way Advantage could use their skills to serve their neighbors.
“Part of Advantage’s messaging is ‘winning together.’ Therefore, our slogan for our [Three Cheers] team is, ‘those who win together, give together,’” Brooke said. “It’s very important for companies to be involved in their community.”
Food insecurity hits home for Brooke. When she was young, her family frequently had to choose between paying for food and other necessities.
“My dad was a construction worker, so it was seasonal. So you never know when you’re going to have your next meal.”
Fortunately, her family was able to visit food pantries to make ends meet.
“That’s why I love giving back, because I experienced it as a child,” she said.
In addition to being able to sample the dish, neighbors also received recipe cards so that they can recreate it. These two elements align with the food bank’s new Fresh Start initiative – which aims to nourish, empower and enable our neighbors by providing fresh food, education sessions and resources.
Fresh Start is inspired by long-time partners like Toni, who has coordinated the distribution at Brookside for the last 15 years. She creates her own recipe pamphlets for neighbors who go through the line that utilize key ingredients distributed.
These organizations’ combined support help families like Morlesha and her 2-year-old daughter, Mariyah, who attended September’s Mobile Pantry at Brookside.
Morlesha, a single mother, attends the food distributions only when her monthly food assistance doesn’t quite stretch far enough. The resource fills the gaps in her budget by helping to feed her two growing children.
“I thought that [the SNAP benefits] would help the entire month, but it runs out real fast,” she said. “I don’t know if we would make it [without the Mobile Food Pantry].”
Thanks to the support of organizations like Advantage Marketing, and that of generous partners like Toni, Chef Tim and Brooke, the food bank can continue to expand our reach, add to our programming and, ultimately, equip more families with the food and resources they need.
Story written by Juliana Ludema, Communication Assistant