Hunger-relief efforts cross Michigan-Wisconsin border

Volunteers stand in front of a food bank truck

Food bank partners from all corners of the U.P. work hard to get food from our warehouses into the fridges and cupboards of neighbors in need – but sometimes, we get (and give) a little extra help across the Wisconsin border.

The Marinette Salvation Army serves neighbors in both Marinette, WI and Menominee, MI – towns known as “twin cities” with a combined population of nearly 20,000. Separated by three bridges crossing the Menominee River, both communities historically relied on the lumber industry, but many of these jobs have vanished.

Recently, the Salvation Army started hosting Mobile Food Pantries – sponsored by the Wisconsin Public Service Foundation – in partnership with Feeding America West Michigan.

Volunteers stand in front of a food bank truck

More than 300 families attended their September distribution and received 15,000 lbs. of food – equating to around 12,500 meals – collectively. Anyone in need can receive food from these distributions, whether they’re from Wisconsin or Michigan.

“We had a few people that traveled quite a ways,” Rhegan said.

The Salvation Army also has its own pantry and serves drive-thru dinner three nights a week.

Rhegan and her husband pose for a photo
Salvation Army members, Rhegan and husband Joshua serve at the Mobile Pantries together.

“I think the really nice thing about the Mobile Pantry is that it’s all fresh,” Rhegan said. “[Our community has] several pantries but mostly what we can offer is nonperishables. It’s a nice addition to what’s already happening.”

Before the pandemic, 1 in 8 neighbors in Menominee County faced hunger, while 1 in 9 in Marinette did. Now, those ratios are predicted to be higher.

“When people come in, in situations they never expected to be in, I always tell them ‘that’s why we’re here.’ We’re here to help during those times and get you back on your feet,” Rhegan said.

Many who get involved in U.P. hunger-relief efforts have experienced hunger themselves. The U.P.’s rurality makes it challenging for many to maintain employment, and the distance between towns makes it hard for residents to access food. Even if they can get to a grocery store, fresh food options are limited and prices are heightened, making it difficult to purchase.

That’s why Feeding America West Michigan is working hard to bring nutritious food to all corners of the U.P. With help from neighbors at home and across the border, we believe this is possible.

Story written by Communication Specialist Juliana Ludema.

Photos courtesy of Rhegan Stansbury.