Common Circumstances Causing West Michigan Families to Seek Food Support

Teri sits in her car with two of her grandkids

Feeding America West Michigan brings more than 100 Mobile Food Pantries to communities across our service area each month. Depending on location and need, some Mobile Pantries bring food for 100 families; others bring food for 300+.

But no matter the location, Mobile Pantries have one goal: to provide a little extra help for neighbors when they’re in need.

Neighbors facing hunger come from all walks of life, but there are some trends. Here are some common circumstances that cause neighbors to seek food support through programs like Mobile Food Pantries.

Grandparents helping raise their grandkids

Teri sits in her car with two of her grandkids

Teri plays a big role in the lives of her grandchildren. She began attending Mobile Pantries 10 years ago, when a few of her children were still young. Now, two of her grandchildren live with her throughout the week while their mom is at work.

In addition to a vegetable garden she grows in the summer, Teri relies on Mobile Pantries and a local traditional pantry to make ends meet.

“Let’s put it this way,” she said. “There’s no food budget in my budget at all, so whatever we get is from food banks. We make it stretch.”

She doesn’t qualify for social security income, and her daughter can’t afford to pay her to watch her kids. Her husband works, but medical challenges caused him to miss nearly half of last year.

Meanwhile, Teri is trying to raise funds to purchase a gravestone for her son, who died four years ago. She and her daughter have been collecting cans for the past two years, but she’s still $500 short. Gradually, she’s been getting closer to her goal, thanks in part to help from members of Cascade Fellowship, the church that hosts the Mobile Pantries she attends.

“Their prayers, their hugs, their smiles—they’ve been a really big help,” she said.

Seniors living on fixed incomes

Myrtle and Zane wait in their car for a Mobile Pantry

High school sweethearts Myrtle and Zane have been married for 61 years!

The couple grew up near Fremont, Michigan. Before they retired, they ran a campground. Now, they regularly attend Mobile Pantries at All Saints Catholic Church to keep food on the table.

“It’s really helped a lot because you know, sometimes, you just don’t have the money to buy groceries,” Myrtle said. “Now with the gas, we try doing everything at one time in one day when we go into town.”

The couple particularly enjoys getting fresh fruit and milk.

Families living on one income

A box of food neighbors received at a Mobile Pantry

Nick is a hardworking father. He began attending Kent County Mobile Pantries after hearing about them from his aunt a couple of years ago. He has one child and another on the way, so with the prices of food rising, a little extra groceries go far.

“We’re on one income right now. It’s helpful to have a couple extra things in the pantry and fridge for times that are tough,” he said.

At first, he was nervous to attend and wasn’t sure if he would qualify.

“After being here quite a while, I realized anyone is welcome. There’s no judgment. You don’t know what anyone is going through.”

The circumstances that drive neighbors to seek food assistance are diverse. Feeding America West Michigan is glad to ­­­be able to support these neighbors and people like them across our service area.

This project was funded in part by grants from Amway and the Fremont Area Community Foundation, with help from the William and Jeanne Leaver Donor Advised Fund).

Story written by Communication and Marketing Specialist Juliana Ludema.