On a snowy day in January, neighbors in need of food gathered in a heated tent at a bank parking lot, awaiting the arrival of a Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantry. Located in downtown Muskegon, the bank is surrounded by historic churches, including Mt. Zion, whose members braved the cold to serve their neighbors facing hunger.
Mt. Zion is part of Muskegon County Cooperating Churches (MCCC), a nonprofit fighting to ensure all neighbors in Muskegon County have enough to eat. Volunteers from churches across the county come together to serve fresh produce and other nutritious options farmers market style at MCCC’s weekly Mobile Pantries.
This food distribution was one of 24 in Muskegon and Holland, generously sponsored by Tyson Foods.
The hard work of MCCC, and the support of Tyson, fills the plates of the many neighbors in Muskegon County, where 1 in 7 faces hunger. Children are even more at risk – more than 7,000 face hunger.
Today, Jack coordinates all of MCCC’s Mobile Pantries, but he was once among those in need. After a bad back caused Jack to retire, the former truck driver went on social security, but struggled to pay bills.
He began receiving food from Mobile Pantries and his finances became easier to manage. Jack saw “what a great thing was happening,” and decided to start volunteering.
Not long after, he was appointed Mobile Pantry director.
“My favorite part is just meeting the different people, having fun with them, trying to keep things light and fun and fair,” he said.
Alongside Jack, Jenny volunteers consistently at MCCC’s Mobile Pantries. In her job as a public interest lawyer, she works with people in need, but loves that at Mobile Pantries, she can help neighbors in a different capacity.
As she passes out food, Jenny’s always surprised by how people from all walks of life come through the line:
“There are people young and old. There are people here with babies. Some people who fell into a bad spot and just need some food this week or this month. Could be anybody – could be me, could be my family,” she said.
“It’s such a basic necessity for people,” she said. “And for us to be able to help people have food and nourishment, that’s a really cool thing to do.”
No matter age, occupation or background – anyone can experience hunger. Likewise, anyone can help their community. Many young people volunteer, including Jenny’s teenage son. Even 5-year-old Benya came out with her great aunt Janie to help pass out grapes in January.
“I wanted to volunteer because I like helping people,” she said.
Neighbors in Muskegon have fridges full of nutritious food thanks to the commitment of Jack, the MCCC volunteer team and the support of organizations like Tyson. Without hunger warriors like them, Feeding America West Michigan could not distribute millions of pounds of food through 40 counties each year.
Photos and video by Volunteer Kyle Macciomei.
Story by Communication Assistant Juliana Ludema.