COVID-19 Hunger Heroes Part 5: Subaru, ConAgra and other supporters help Feeding America West Michigan meet increased need through new and replacement equipment

A reefer (back part of a truck) with the food bank's logo on it awaits loading.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, closing jobs and schools, Feeding America West Michigan quickly saw a ripple effect. As neighbors who had never needed food assistance before found themselves facing empty cupboards, and those already facing hunger found it even more difficult to make ends meet, the need for our services grew exponentially.

But just as quickly as the need increased, organizations and neighbors across our service area stepped up to meet it. This blog series highlights some of these hunger heroes. Read the rest of this series here.

Equipment like forklifts, pallet jacks and trucks are the building blocks of the food bank’s mission. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to provide neighbors facing hunger with millions of meals worth of food each year.

Each of these items is in use for hours on end. Last year, our truck drivers traveled the equivalent of nearly 17 times around the world. Because of COVID-19, we’re anticipating our fleet will endure many more miles this year. Meanwhile, forklifts and pallet jacks are operated daily in every corner of our warehouses, helping staff safely transport, load and rearrange heavy boxes of canned goods, pasta, pop tarts and more.

National Guard members help unload a truck for a Mobile Pantry

Unfortunately, these essential pieces of equipment are costly to purchase and maintain. And since they’re so often in use, they wear out fairly quickly. TJ, the food bank’s logistics manager, is usually looking for trucks to purchase, and is always trying to repair something. It’s rare that every piece of equipment in the food bank’s possession is usable or fully functional at one time.

“Having newer equipment cuts down on our maintenance costs,” TJ explained.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the food bank has distributed 40 percent more food to our 800+ partner agencies in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. That’s because the demand for our services has increased significantly. The Feeding America National Organization estimates that 1 in 6 neighbors – up from last year’s 1 in 8 – will face hunger this year in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Theresa and her grandson stand in front of their car after receiving food.
Neighbors like Theresa and Adam benefit from food delivered by trucks during COVID-19.

This increased need has spread our warehouse equipment thin, and because many pieces of equipment were on their last leg to begin with, the need for new and replacement equipment quickly became clear.

Thanks to support received through the Feeding America National Organization, we have recently been able to purchase two lightly-used trucks and a variety of new warehouse equipment including electric pallet jacks, forklifts, stainless steel tables, a label gun, anti-fatigue mats for volunteers and tape guns. Soon after – also through their partnership with the Feeding America National Organization – Subaru and ConAgra enabled us to purchase reefer trailers to go along with the trucks, an essential piece of the hunger solution.

While the new forklifts replaced old ones that were falling into disrepair, the other pieces of warehouse equipment were additions. They’re filling the gaps created due to the increased need.

“Having dependable equipment is the very best way to complete our mission,” TJ said.

The food bank depends on the support of numerous organizations like and individuals like you to continue fighting hunger wherever it exists in our service area. If you would like to support our mission, click here to learn how you can help neighbors facing hunger.

Story written by Communication Assistant Juliana Ludema.