37. Eric Foster


Eric’s grandparents were regular volunteers at Manna Food Project for many years. They knew he was unhappy at his current job, so when a position at Manna opened up, they encouraged him to apply.

“My grandma and grandpa said I should do something that I loved, like helping people every day,” he recalled.

Now, Eric is Manna’s warehouse manager. He wears many hats in this position, but all help get food on the plates of neighbors in need. A typical day for him may include filling food orders for Manna’s pantry partners, assigning volunteer responsibilities and ordering from Feeding America West Michigan.

“I’m carrying on my family’s legacy of wanting to give back,” he said.

He and his wife — who also works at Manna — are teaching this love of service to their 11-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter as well. Their kids often volunteer and they’ve even gotten their 4H group involved!

“My kids love coming in,” Eric said. “They love getting to interact with people. My daughter loves to [add labels to food] because it’s putting stickers on things!”

He believes it’s important to start kids volunteering young because it “opens their eyes to giving back to the community.”

As a father, Eric is most passionate about ensuring kids have the food they need.

“The backpack program we do really hits home to me. I don’t want to see any kids starving,” he said.

Manna Food Project serves Antrim, Emmet and Charlevoix counties in Northwest Michigan as one of Feeding America West Michigan’s largest partners. They act as a food bank — rescuing and distributing food — for 42 food pantries and meal programs in the region. They also serve food directly to neighbors at their weekly drive-up food pantry. And they serve 1,500 kids through their backpack program.

Eric’s favorite part of his work is interacting with people, whether that’s with clients during food pantry days, or by chatting with volunteers. For him, working at Manna is less of a job and more of a “duty.”

“It doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t dread coming into work. Manna is like a big family. The clients, the volunteers, the pantries — everyone helps everyone.”

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