As a young child growing up in Ionia, Nate Maroulis watched his mother nurture a garden and trade homemade items with farmers to put food on the plates of her three kids.
He also remembers being very young and receiving food off a truck — what he now realizes was a Mobile Food Pantry — and getting groceries from traditional food pantries.
“My upbringing instilled in me a sense and desire for community,” he said. “If people connect with each other, they can accomplish significant things.”
Nate wanted to make a positive impact on the world and assumed he’d have to create something new to make this happen, so he picked engineering as his major.
Years later, he was working in a salad dressing factory and felt unfulfilled. When he heard about a position at Feeding America West Michigan, he quickly applied.
“I was so compelled. There was a huge undertaking going on in my backyard that I hadn’t seen the backend of. On my first tour of the food bank, I realized I didn’t have to invent something new to have a strong impact.”
Nate was soon driving hi-los around the food bank filling agency orders. When a position in the Mobile Pantry program opened up, he took it because he felt he could help. And he did. A natural innovator, Nate found ways to streamline the process. He bounced to volunteer coordinator after that, where he implemented electronic volunteer sign-ins. Nate loved this position but was convinced to switch roles once more because the food bank needed a dedicated staffer to manage relationships with retail donors. In this role as retail coordinator, he ensures a smooth flow of food from retailers (like Walmart or Meijer) to the food bank.
Today, Nate is bursting with ideas to implement. One of his major accomplishments to date is connecting our larger agency partners with our retailer donors so they can pick up donations directly. These connections have increased the amount of food received.
“There’s a lot that can be done still in our retail department,” he said. “I’m not looking for the next thing yet!”
Nate’s passion for hunger relief runs deep. His heart for the mission and ability to put his beliefs in action make him an essential face of the food bank. The innovations he’s implemented so far are sure to make a lasting impact on the food bank for years to come.