Workplace injuries put brothers out of work. Neighborly support helps them keep independence.

Two men sit in a car waiting for a mobile pantry

Five years ago, Ken was a 51-year-old mail carrier with plans to put in long hours until he turned 70. Then, he fell off his truck and broke his foot in two places. That injury, combined with his already-bad back, forced him into early retirement.

“I had three doctors and medical examiners say, ‘you’re done,’” he said.

Similarly, his brother-in-law, John, worked as a truck driver until an injury. Leaving the workforce was a hard transition for John.

“I had a bad case of depression,” he shared.

He still misses his job, but now finds joy sitting up in a deer blind or fishing with Ken.

Two men sit in a car waiting for a mobile pantry

Both the brothers’ wives continue to work, but their salaries – combined with the men’s disability incomes – don’t cover the breadth of their living expenses. To fill the gaps, the brothers attend Mobile Food Pantries, hosted by Church of the Nazarene, near their hometown in Osceola County.

“This has been great,” Ken said. “This has been a blessing.”

The food bank’s Mobile Pantries deliver fresh groceries directly to high-need areas. In rural counties like Osceola, this is particularly essential. Rural communities frequently lack sufficient grocery shopping choices and, in these areas, produce is usually more expensive. Due to COVID-19, Mobile Pantries are all providing drive-thru service, a system many neighbors find more convenient.

“It’s hard for us to get around, so it’s nice that we can pull right up.” Ken said.

A car is filled with boxes of food such as apples

Usually, 1 in 7 neighbors faces hunger in Osceola County, including more than 1,000 children. This year, more residents are projected to face hunger than usual due to COVID-19’s impact.

Volunteer Ruth Anne sees the Mobile Pantries as a “blessing” for people in need. The distributions are generously sponsored by the General Mills Foundation Hometown Grantmaking Program.

“This is wonderful especially for those like my friend who is a widow and lives on social security – which isn’t much,” Ruth Anne said.

Ruth Anne stands in front of a line of cars leading to the church

No one should feel ashamed to ask for help, but for some neighbors, it’s not always an easy decision to seek food assistance. John shared that it felt like swallowing his pride the first time he attended.

“It’s hard to do,” he said. Still, he believes it’s worth it and urged anyone in need to use the resources available to them.

Feeding America West Michigan concurs: No matter your circumstance, if you need food, you’re welcome at any Mobile Food Pantry near you.

This story was written by Communication Specialist Juliana Ludema.