“Anything is appreciated right now with inflation. We don’t qualify for food stamps, so this supplements us. Don’t think just because we work it isn’t hard.”
Christine and her husband are among the 61 percent of neighbors who seek charitable food assistance despite being employed. They’re also parents to three teenagers, and simply want to see their kids thrive. Helping them do so are Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantries, which are hosted near their home in Manistee each month. The fresh produce and other food they receive helps them keep their kids’ plates full.
Christine first learned about Mobile Pantries two years ago, at the start of the pandemic. Her husband’s hours were cut at his truck driving job and, although Christine was still employed as a home health aide, the family didn’t have quite enough income to make ends meet. A friend of theirs who volunteers at the Mobile Pantries offered to start picking up food for them, since their jobs prevented them from waiting in line themselves.
Now, Christine is transitioning from working nights to a new job that will allow her to visit the Mobile Pantries herself. At a food distribution held in April, she and other neighbors in line received fresh foods like milk, grapefruit and asparagus, as well as other items like canned salmon.
Christine loves cooking and finds plenty of creative ways to make delicious meals out of the food she receives. In March, she put onions and potatoes to good use in a St. Patrick’s Day stew.
“It’s nice because we don’t have paperwork to fill out,” she said. “There’s no judging.”
Mobile Pantries only ask neighbors to affirm their need, so they’re great options for families like Christine’s, who wouldn’t qualify for other forms of food assistance. Most traditional pantries and government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP—formerly known as food stamps) request proof of income. These programs are beneficial to many neighbors facing hunger, but they don’t always account for the unique needs of working families.
A family like Christine’s living in Manistee County with three teenage children would spend an estimated $1,100 every month just on groceries. That’s according to the Self Sufficiency Standard, a budget-based, living wage measure that defines the real cost of living for working families at a minimally adequate level.
Cutting down on grocery costs by attending Mobile Pantries allows families like Christine’s to instead save that money for bills, emergencies or other necessities.
Feeding America West Michigan is able to bring Mobile Pantries to communities like Manistee thanks in part to the generosity of organizations like Planet Fitness and the Paul Bunyan Chapter of Credit Unions. Their support, the help of host sites like the Manistee Friendship Society and many committed volunteers ensure families can access nourishing foods despite rising costs in stores.