Cars lined the roads leading to Lakeview Free Methodist Church on a cold but sunny day in late February. Driving the cars were 82 Lakeview families in need of food, awaiting the arrival of a Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantry.
Despite the cold, volunteers, including Janet and her 10-year-old grandson Korben, unloaded fresh milk, grapefruit, potatoes and other produce from the food bank’s truck, organized it on tables, and helped fill families’ baskets as they drove through the line. Other volunteers present were local police officer Joel Catts and Lakeview residents from various churches.
Janet explained her reason for serving: “It’s just gratifying to see the people who come who need the extra food, and be able to give it to them, and see the smiles on their faces.”
Korben likes that he can “help people” and is glad he can get out of school early.
Janet and her husband are retired and live on a fixed income, so she is grateful that, in addition to helping, she can also receive food. The groceries help her make ends meet and ensure she doesn’t run out of food when her grandkids come over after school.
Julie and Chris are in a similar situation financially. They often struggle to feed themselves and their four kids. 6-year-old Cameron came along for the ride, and was eager to help his dad load his family’s car with the food they received.
“It helps get us by and make ends meet,” Julie said.
These families’ stories are similar to those of many who reside in Montcalm County, where 1 in 8 neighbors are food insecure. This means they can’t afford or don’t have access to enough food to live a healthy, active life.
The calm of small-town living in rural areas like Montcalm County often comes with tradeoffs. Many families struggle to find jobs nearby, and they may need to drive half an hour to find affordable groceries – racking up gas bills.
Ted, the association’s Mobile Food Pantry coordinator, was the pastor at Lakeview Free Methodist Church for 32 years. Even though he’s retired, he continues to work hard to ensure the Mobile Pantries run smoothly.
“Without food, we don’t live, so we need nourishment,” he said. “We do have a need in our area.”
Officer Joel Catts is far newer to hunger-relief efforts, but no less passionate. He answered a call near the Mobile Food Pantry just before his shift ended. He saw the volunteers passing out food and decided to jump in and serve.
“I meet a lot of people who are in need of some assistance,” he said. “So when I see something like this, I think it’s great.”
He often volunteers in the community and believes doing so not only helps the community, but shows residents that Lakeview officers are “here for them.”
“This is a very strong community. Everybody helps each other out,” he said. “[Lakeview] is a really great place to be a part of, and I’ve got a lot of pride.”