Mom who faced hunger gives back

Each month, Heather volunteers at the Mobile Food Pantry held at New Freedom Church in Coloma. As she sets up tables, greets neighbors and passes out fresh produce, she’s glad to know she’s giving back.

As a young mom, Heather walked in the shoes of the neighbors she now serves. And while she was able to visit a food pantry a couple of times, she wishes she’d had more options.

Facing hunger taught Heather’s five children – all now young adults – to give back. Today, they all volunteer at the Mobile Pantries when they can and bring their kids, too.

At September’s food distribution, Heather brought her granddaughter, 4-year-old Lilah, who is already learning how to help her neighbors in need.

She believes it’s important for kids to volunteer as young as possible.

“It teaches them there’s still good out there. It gets their face out of their phone. It gets them involved in their community. That’s essential in this day and age,” she said.

Kerry, who coordinates both the fixed and Mobile Food Pantry at the church, had moms like Heather in mind when she first began volunteering in hunger relief. Her two daughters faced hunger when they were young, single moms “just trying to make it.” Walking alongside them during those times inspired Kerry to give back.

The Mobile Food Pantry has run for five years at New Freedom Church and, while many distribution locations stop running in the dead of winter, their distributions happen rain, shine or even blizzard, 12 months a year.

In Berrien County, Mobile Food Pantries are needed no matter the weather. Since 1 in 7 residents face hunger, it’s no surprise that a diversity of neighbors went through the Mobile Pantry line in September. Single parents, families with young children and seniors all lined up to receive fresh produce, nonperishable foods and dairy products.

Thanks to the generosity of the food bank’s supporters, and the dedication of volunteers like Heather, New Freedom Church can continue to serve its community. And with the combined efforts of our partners and volunteers, Feeding America West Michigan can continue to reach neighbors facing hunger throughout West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Story written by Juliana Ludema, Communication Assistant