Myth: Neighbors facing hunger always need help

A volunteer loads a truck with food

According to the USDA ERS, before the pandemic, someone who faced hunger in any given year only did so for an average of seven months. And 94 percent of neighbors who faced hunger in a given year no longer needed help five years later.

Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantries make it easy for neighbors experiencing a job loss, car crash or another sudden crisis to get help with groceries quickly, and they rarely attend for longer than a few months.

A Mobile Pantry volunteer waves a flag at a line of cars

Stacey, a stay-at-home mom to three teen boys, is one of these neighbors. In her case, the pandemic is the main cause of her family’s food insecurity — an inability to access or afford enough nutritious food. Stacey’s husband is working 70 hours a week, but his income simply isn’t enough to make up for the household’s heightened expenses.

When her kids started virtual school last year, Stacey began spending more money on food to fill the gap left by the reduced-price lunches her sons were eligible for. Her sons have remained in virtual school, which has impacted more than just the family’s food budget.

“My electric bills went up, and everything went up, because I have all the kids home now,” she said. “These help.”

A volunteer loads a truck with food

At each Mobile Pantry, she receives plenty of fresh produce, meat and dairy, including milk and snacks helpful for growing teenagers.

“It’s a priority for my kids to have fresh food to snack on,” she said. “I don’t like them eating everything out of the box.”

Her sons typically go through food very quickly, so she’s been surprised how long the food she receives lasts.

“The fresh fruit and stuff that this provides, and the meat, sometimes that’s like three meals for my kids.”

Stacey’s mother-in-law lives with the family, adding another plate at their table.

Stacey is among the 19 percent of Wexford County neighbors estimated to be facing hunger right now, including 2,240 kids like hers.

JC and his daughter Brit attend Mobile Pantries at Cadillac Revival as well.

This need is why Revival Center Church hosts recurring Mobile Pantries for the community. Recently, the Cadillac Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council helped sponsor one.

“It’s just a blessing to see the looks on people’s faces and their gratitude when they come through and get a box of food,” said Thelma, who coordinates the Mobile Pantries. “It’s a blessing that we can help them.”

Nearly 300 families attended the church’s Mobile Pantry alongside Stacey. Many are experiencing hunger for the first time, and won’t need help after the crisis subsides and they get back up on their feet.

Ensuring families make it through this pandemic with enough food in their fridges and cupboards is a priority for Feeding America West Michigan. With help from dedicated volunteers, donors and grantors like the Cadillac YAC, we can ensure thousands can access nutritious food for their families.

Story written by Communication Manager Molly Kooi and Communication Specialist Juliana Ludema