The State of Child Hunger in Our Service Area

brother and sister play at a mobile pantry

In West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, 1 in 8 children is food insecure—meaning their families can’t always access or afford enough food for them to live healthy, active lives. In some of the 40 counties our food bank serves, child food insecurity rates are even higher.

When children face hunger, they experience diverse challenges. They’re more likely to:

  • Repeat a grade in elementary school.
  • Experience developmental impairments in areas
    like language and motor skills.
  • Have more social and behavioral problems.

Kids in the following five counties are most at risk:

  • Lake (24%/1 in 4)
  • Chippewa (20.7%/1 in 5)
  • Luce (20.5%/1 in 5)
  • Mackinac (20.2%/1 in 5)
  • Schoolcraft (18.6%/1 in 5)

Which Children Face Higher Risk of Hunger?

When you think of a food-insecure child, who do you imagine? Every neighbor’s story is unique, but the circumstances described below represent those of children in need across West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

  • Children whose families are low-income or experience unemployment

The most common cause of food insecurity is insufficient income. While some neighbors we serve live below the poverty line, many are considered “ALICE” (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). This means that, although they hold jobs, they simply don’t make enough to cover the cost of living in their community. ALICE families who experience a major financial setback—such as a car repair, unexpected medical expense or job loss—may find themselves in a desperate situation, struggling to put food on their kids’ plates.

Did You Know?
More than 60% of neighbors who seek food assistance nationally are employed, with the majority of others being retired or disabled.

  • Children being raised by their grandparents

“Grandfamilies” are becoming more common, but retirees don’t usually expect to raise their grandchildren, so they may only have enough in savings for themselves. This can result in grandfamilies becoming food insecure and living on tight budgets.

Did You Know?
In many situations, adults in the home put kids’ needs first. Grandparents raising grandkids may forgo their own well-being so the kids they care for can eat.

  • Children of color

Black and Latino children are more than twice as likely to face hunger as white children, and Native American children experience barriers to food access as well. The USDA found that only 26% of Native communities are within one mile from a supermarket, compared to 59% of all communities in the United States. Child hunger won’t end until children of all backgrounds have the food they need to thrive.

Did You Know?
In our 40-county service area, 1 in 3 Black residents experiences poverty, while 1 in 9 white residents does.

  • Children facing summer hunger

Families who are able to make ends meet through the academic year, thanks to support from various meal programs offered at school, suddenly experience increased expenses in the summer. Summer meal programs, like the ones our food bank partners with, help fill this gap.

Did You Know?
More than 100 of Feeding America West Michigan’s hunger-relief partners directly target childhood hunger!

How You Can Help Kids in Your Community

Read the stories in this newsletter, visit our blog and keep an eye out for studies from the USDA ERS and Feeding America National to learn more about how hunger affects kids in need.

Tell your friends and family about what you learn, share posts found on the food bank’s social media pages (@feedingwestmich) and write or call your representatives to tell them how essential it is to fight child hunger—whether through food banks and their partners, or through government programs
like the National School Breakfast & Lunch Program.

Volunteer at one of our partner food pantries or meal programs or at the food bank.

Host a food drive—an especially great way to engage kids in the cause!

Donate on our website or through the mail—every $10 helps provide 40 nutritious meals to food-insecure families in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.