Shelter residents distribute food to neighbors in Menominee County

Neighbors wait in line to receive food.

On the Southernmost tip of the Upper Peninsula, Abundant Life Church & Mission in Menominee serves families facing homelessness and hunger – providing them a place to stay, three square meals a day and the resources they need to get back on their feet.

In return, these neighbors serve their community by volunteering at Abundant Life’s Mobile Food Pantries, held every other month and sponsored by Caterpillar. The Mobile Pantries provide upwards of 550 neighbors with produce, dairy and non-perishable food items to keep their refrigerators and cabinets full.

Neighbors wait in line to receive food.

Jeff knows what it’s like to struggle with food insecurity. He arrived at Abundant Life two years ago after a bout of homelessness that wouldn’t end. Due to health problems, he could only pick up odd jobs here and there, barely scraping together enough income to live in his vehicle. Then, his health problems intensified, and a friend told him about the mission.

“Living in my vehicle you can only do so much,” he said. “One day, I finally said, ‘this is enough,’ and I came here.”

Jeff says he worked his way up and did everything he needed to do, and was soon offered a job at Abundant Life as their donations and volunteer coordinator. He also plays music at the Abundant Life Church.

Jeff signs people in to the Mobile Food Pantry.
Jeff helps neighbors sign in at a Mobile Food Pantry.

Today, he still lives at the shelter, but works there, too, helping serve the 88 individuals who share his living space.

Abundant Life’s services include more than shelter; they offer insurance, home-search help and many other needed resources. The mission is home to many who arrive from across the U.P. seeking support.

In Menominee County, 1 in 9 people face food insecurity, meaning they often must choose between paying for food and other necessities. Thanks to the homeless volunteers who serve at Abundant Life’s Mobile Pantries, these community families don’t need to go without.

In the first 10 months of the year, nearly 1,400 individuals received more than 80,000 pounds of food – equaling more than 66,000 meals – at the food distributions. More than half of the food distributed was fresh produce. By the end of 2019, an additional 30,000 pounds of food will make its way to those facing hunger in Menominee County.

Thanks to the dedication of hunger warriors like Jeff, and the support of Feeding America West Michigan’s partners like Caterpillar, neighbors facing hunger even in the furthest corner of the Upper Peninsula can receive the support they need.

Story written by Juliana Ludema, Communication Assistant