Alicia was excited to see asparagus at a Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Pantry she visited last spring. Her late grandpa was a potato farmer who also grew asparagus, and Alicia’s son loved helping him harvest the stalks each year.
“Seeing the asparagus cheered me up,” she said. “I knew my son would be happy about getting it because it would remind him of grandpa. It’s the silly little things that make you think of somebody.”
In addition to asparagus, Alicia received plenty of other groceries that enabled her to put nourishing food on her three kids’ plates.
“I really like the fact that you get a lot of fresh vegetables and milk,” she said.
Alicia heard the Mobile Pantry was coming to town through a text update from her children’s school. At that time, she was recovering from the flu and from throwing out her back, so her hours had been cut at her job at an adult foster care home. Her kids receive free meals at school and participate in an after-school snack program as well, but when emergencies happen, these resources aren’t always enough.
Having the option to visit Mobile Pantries when she needs a little extra help “makes it a little easier,” she said.
Alicia grew up on a farm, which taught her to be very independent. She learned to do as much as possible on her own. This upbringing has, at times, made it hard for her to ask for help, but she now knows how normal it is. As a single mom of three, her priority is her children. Doing all she can to ensure their well-being requires courage and strength. Seeking help took both.
“At the end of 2020, we ended up being homeless for a while, so that pride really took a hit,” she said. “I had to get used to being okay with receiving help. You have to look at it as you’re feeding your kids.”
When she can, Alicia tries to give back and pay it forward.
“I want to pass it on. I like knowing I could possibly help someone else. You might be top of the mountain one day and never know when something will come that makes you crash down.”
Like Alicia, many parents across West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula rely on various hunger-relief programs to help nourish their children. During the school year, these programs include free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches as well as weekend or evening meal programs. When school ends, most of these resources suddenly disappear. Mobile Food Pantries and traditional food pantries can help, but can’t completely replace regular school meals.
That’s one reason why the food bank is aiming to increase programming for kids, particularly during the summer when fewer resources are available. One of these programs—called Gather 2 Grow—began in the summer of 2022. At Gather 2 Grow sites, all youth (age 18 and under) and disabled adults up to age 26 can receive nourishing meals throughout the summer at no cost.
The food bank will expand this program with funds from our Nourish Tomorrow campaign once our new facility is renovated and equipped.