Isabelle is not only passionate about beauty, but also about helping her neighbors in need. Four years ago, at just eight years old, she started volunteering at the Mobile Food Pantries hosted by New Freedom Church in Berrien County, after winning the title Little Miss Lake Michigan.
“The reason I went out for the pageant was so I could have more volunteering [opportunities],” she said. “I really just like giving to people.”
Taylor, a fellow pageant queen, shares Isabelle’s passion for volunteerism. Together, they help the church distribute 5,000 pounds of fresh food each month. Without access to this resource, the neighbors they serve would have to opt for more unhealthy options or go without.
“It means a whole lot to be able to come here and get food,” said Betty, one of the many seniors the girls serve. “I ain’t got no food in the house.”
Betty is particularly appreciative of the fresh options she is able to receive at the Mobile Pantries. At the grocery store, these items are far pricier, and due to storage restrictions, it can be difficult for typical food pantries to offer fresh items to those in need.
Neighbors like Betty are able to access fresh produce at New Freedom’s Mobile Pantries thanks to the hard work of volunteers, and the collaborative support of the Berrien Community Foundation, United Way of Southwest Michigan and the Frederick S. Upton Foundation.
1 in 7 people in Berrien County are food insecure – meaning they must frequently choose between paying for food and other necessities.
“[The food insecurity rate is] surprising,” Isabelle said, “but it also makes me really sad. I’m glad I can volunteer here and try to make an impact.”
Miss Lake Michigan, the pageant that Isabelle and Taylor are involved in, encourages the young women who participate to give back to their communities. Mobile Food Pantries have been one of the main ways these young women have volunteered over the past few years.
“It’s really impacting the community,” Taylor said. “So it’s important to get out there and volunteer and help others.”
The supporters of our Mobile Food Pantry program come in all forms – from pageant queens to churches to granting organizations. We are continually inspired when they join forces and work together to end hunger in West Michigan.
Story written by Juliana Ludema, Communication Assistant