Mobile Pantries ensure parents don’t need to skip meals

Sacrifice comes hand-in-hand with being a parent. At the start of the pandemic, this took on new meaning for many parents of school-aged children. As schools became virtual, parents across the country were confronted with tough choices. Some quit their jobs or cut back hours to stay home. Others lost their jobs or received fewer hours and had no choice but to stay home. For some families, these changes made it harder to pay for bills, emergency expenses or even food. Many people who had never before faced hunger were suddenly in need.

Even without a global pandemic, many parents make these sacrifices every day. Feeding America West Michigan serves single parents working full-time whose income largely goes to daycare expenses. We serve families who must choose to have one parent stay home to avoid daycare costs but then struggle to make ends meet on one income.

Parents in these situations often choose to sacrifice their own meals so that their kids can eat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Most parents attempt to shield their children from the more severe effects of food insecurity, even though they may have to reduce their own food intake to do so,” a USDA report explained.

No matter their situation, parents need access to nourishing meals that enable them to pursue their dreams and empower their children to follow theirs.

Melissa is one parent who never thought she’d need food assistance but, after her son began virtual school, found herself in line at Mobile Pantries hosted by Three Oaks American Legion in Berrien County.

“He was home and I couldn’t work. It worked better if I just didn’t, so I stayed home with him,” she said.

She planned to return to her job at her brother’s pool business once her son returned to in-person school in the fall of 2021.

“This summer we’ve started getting back to normal routines,” she said.

Her fiancé worked throughout the pandemic, but his income didn’t always stretch far enough, so Melissa appreciated being able to receive fresh produce, dairy and other food at Mobile Pantries.

“It’s a really great experience. The variety is always great,” she said. “I was hesitant at first because I worked my whole life and didn’t want to ask anybody for anything, but I put my pride aside for a bit.”

Mobile Pantries at Three Oaks American Legion are funded in part by the Pokagon Fund. They’ve helped sponsor the Mobile Pantry program in Harbor Country for more than a decade. Feeding America West Michigan is grateful for this partnership. Thanks to their support, we can continue to help neighbors like Melissa!