As Cost of Living Spikes, Who Seeks Support from Mobile Food Pantries?

man in car

In West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, 1 in 8 neighbors faces hunger. This means they can’t always access or afford enough food to live healthy, active lives. Neighbors in these situations are young and old, nurses and mechanics, retired and disabled. They’re members of the community raising kids and grandkids, helping neighbors how they can, enjoying hobbies and work—and they just need a little extra help.

Anyone can find themselves in need of food assistance. The pandemic certainly showed this. In 2020, 1 in 5 people in America sought support from the charitable food system. Today, people seek help for diverse reasons. And as the cost of living spikes, we expect to see more neighbors visiting Mobile Food Pantries and other hunger-relief programs supported by the food bank. This support is made possible in part by Perrigo, Kraft Heinz and the generosity of numerous other community donors.

This spring, neighbors from all walks of life attended Mobile Pantries for food support. Each attendee received plenty of fresh groceries at no cost to them. Below, you’ll meet a few of these community members who made that sometimes-hard choice to ask for help. If you or someone you know is facing hunger, please don’t hesitate to attend a Mobile Pantry!

A Grandma Raising Her Grandson

At 79, Pat is caring for her teen grandson. She never imagined raising kids after retirement, but when her grandson was in 4th grade, she learned that he and her granddaughter were in an unsafe home situation, so she gained custody of them both.

Pat’s granddaughter is now grown up, fighting for kids in similar situations as a CPS employee.  Since her brother has special needs, he can’t live on his own. Pat still cares for him—“I’m going to as long as I can,” she said.

Pat also spends her days caring for her husband, who has Parkinson’s.

Her strength shows through her loyal care for her family, but sometimes she needs extra help. That’s why she visits Mobile Pantries hosted by Cornerstone Church in Kent County.

“It helps,” she said, “With the price of gas, it will help more.”

Pat’s grandson particularly loves when they receive yogurt and eats it very quickly, she said!

In her spare time—which isn’t much—Pat loves making her own jewelry and painting, especially birds.

A Retired Homebuilder

“My mom made this, I need to ask her to add more eagle feathers when she gets them,” Mark said, pointing to the colorful dreamcatcher dangling from his mirror.

Mark and his mother are members of a Native American tribe from the Grand Traverse area. In the late 1800s, their family members joined other tribes in Bradley, a community in Allegan County. Mark’s mother, grandma and great-grandma before her all lived in the home his brother now owns.

Mark, too, lives in a family home passed down through the generations. It was once his grandfather’s farmhouse, and he spent his childhood there helping with the animals and cornfields. Today, Mark gardens when he can, but his knees don’t allow it much anymore—“It’s hard for me to walk,” he explained.

Three years ago, Mark was forced into early retirement after 35 years in construction because his knees began giving out. Now, he works part-time at a gas station to help make ends meet, and attends Mobile Pantries at the United Church of Wayland to ensure he and his wife have fresh food on their plates.

“It helps a lot,” he said. “I love the fruit!”

Mark has volunteered at the Mobile Pantries, too, but these days he prefers to help while sitting down—like by picking up his two granddaughters from school!

A Family Facing Unemployment

Lisa’s four kids did homework in the car as they waited in line at a Mobile Pantry. Lisa shared about how the family is still dealing with challenges caused by the pandemic.

“My husband lost his job,” she said. Then, he got injured. “He’s trying to get a job, but they want a release from a specialist so it’s not a workman’s comp issue later,” she explained. “We’re trying to deal with that and him not having insurance to go to a specialist.”

Despite these stressful situations, Lisa and her husband are doing all they can to ensure their kids have the food they need to thrive. In addition to attending Mobile Food Pantries, Lisa is able to get WIC benefits.

For her, visiting the Mobile Pantries is worth it, even though she was hesitant at first.

“I thought I would be judged,” she said. “I never had to get help before from things like this, but it’s definitely worth it.”

To stretch the food they receive, she enjoys canning and preserving it.

A volunteer fills a neighbor’s truck at Cornerstone Church’s Mobile Pantry.

As Costs Rise, Families Need Support

The cost of living is spiking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices have increased by 9 percent in the last year. Families across our service area are feeling the weight of this change. Fortunately, many families eligible for SNAP are still receiving additional support, but not everyone in need is eligible, and much of the aid that has been available during the pandemic is dwindling. For these neighbors, the support the charitable food sector offers isn’t always enough.

If you would like to urge our government to strengthen hunger-relief programs, learn more about advocacy priorities for the state of Michigan at Feeding America Action.

Story written by Communication and Marketing Specialist Juliana Ludema.