As the local food bank serving West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, Feeding America West Michigan partners with food pantries across our service area to work together to end hunger. These partnerships enhance our collective capability to provide food to those who need it. We gather and inspect food, then distribute it to our partners, who in turn give the food directly to neighbors facing hunger.
Benny’s House is one of our partner food pantries located in White Cloud, Michigan. Around 16% of residents in this area are experiencing food insecurity, which means Benny’s House consistently sees a significant need for food assistance.
Shaunna volunteers as the co-director of the food pantry. Prior to retirement, she decided she wanted to help out at Benny’s House once she was done being a music teacher because giving back is important to her and “people need to be fed”. Right after she stepped into the co-director role though, the COVID-19 pandemic began.
While facing many unknowns during the beginning stages of the pandemic, Shaunna and others at the pantry had to adapt in order to help their neighbors access food in the most efficient and safe way possible. The number of people coming to the pantry increased significantly during that time, and now, due to inflation, the number of neighbors seeking assistance remains high.
They serve 10+ people per day, which Shaunna considers “a big need” compared to the three or four neighbors they used to see each day.
“We have a lot of people that come once, because everything hit the fan, but then we never see them again. And then we have people who come over and over and a lot of them are older, and their pensions have not kept up. In fact, I had one lady that came in and said, ‘I haven’t grocery shopped for months, because I have to buy my prescription.’”
No matter the circumstances, Shaunna says that at Benny’s House, “everyone is welcome.”
When you show up to the pantry, one of the volunteers will take you around to the different sections of food options available. From canned goods, to proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables and more—neighbors select a certain amount of food based on how many people live in their household. They also offer a variety of personal hygiene supplies.
Many other local organizations make sure that Benny’s House is equipped with everything they need to successfully operate. For example, a restaurant will often provide extra bread or the animal shelter will provide pet food so neighbors can more easily access these items.
In addition, support from organizations such as Wesco, Jonathan Stevens and the William and Jeanne Leaver Donor Advised Fund and the Rich and Kerriann Meeuwenberg Advised Fund of Fremont Area Community Foundation helps us as we continue to partner with food pantries like Benny’s House. Because of their generosity, we can continue to work together to end hunger!
Written by Content Specialist Kelly Reitsma