11. Diane Young


Diane poses in front of a Mobile Pantry truck.Growing up in Benton Harbor, Diane knew many neighbors and relatives who at times went hungry. Diane’s mom didn’t think this was acceptable so she worked hard to “feed everybody.” She made big meals for others so often that her home became known as Big Momma House.

“That’s just how we grew up,” Diane said. “We always felt that if somebody is hungry, we’re going to do whatever we can to feed them.”

Inspired by her mom, Diane’s mission in life is to help her neighbors.

“It’s my heart,” she said. “I’m very passionate about people and community. If everybody does their part, nobody has to go hungry.”

In 2016, Diane helped start a food pantry at Kinexus Bridge Academy, a Benton Harbor organization that provides educational and vocational training for neighbors 16 and older. When she was a caseworker at the academy, she often saw the toll hunger took on students.

“If you’re in school and you’re hungry, you can’t perform to the best of your ability,” she said.

Sometimes, students would feel embarrassed to visit the food pantry, so Diane would drop off food to them at their homes. Today, Diane works in a different role at Michigan Works! (which runs Kinexus) helping remove barriers to education and employment. Often, removing barriers means helping neighbors access food. She still offers to deliver food to neighbors if they lack transportation.

“We want to make sure we serve everyone in need as much as we can,” she explained.

Every month, Diane also coordinates a Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantry, hosted at the Kinexus Bridge Academy. She’s had many neighbors tell her that if it wasn’t for the Mobile Pantries, they would not have food that day.

Even when Diane isn’t working, she’s all over her community volunteering.

“If anything I can do to make a difference in the life of another person, I love it,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to me to come out and meet people and know that we’re making a difference in the lives of others, but it also brings together our community.”

Diane is a beacon of hope in Benton Harbor. Thanks to her efforts to end hunger, so many neighbors in need know where to turn for the help they need.

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