Answering Common Questions about Accessing Charitable Food

Mobile Food Pantry truck

Mobile Food Pantry truck

If you or someone you know is in need of food, check out the information below to learn how to go about finding what’s needed.

Where can people go to get food? What programs are available in my area?

If you or someone you know is in need of food, our Find Food page is a good place to start. There you will find a resource map where you can sort results by distance, county, address or zip code. You can also use the filters to show only specific programs and/or programs open on a certain day of the week. On the find food page, you will see other tabs to the right of the resource map tab, including our Mobile Pantry schedule, Gather 2 Grow schedule, senior-specific resources and other food assistance options.

Another way to find food programs available in your area is to call 2-1-1 for help.

Who can get food from the food bank?

Our food bank partners with food pantries and meal programs across West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula to serve neighbors in need. Depending on the type of program, different restrictions may apply. For example, anyone can receive food from a Mobile Food Pantry. Some of our partners have income or geographic restrictions or serve a specific demographic, but generally, if you seek food from one of our hunger-relief partners, you will be served.

How can everyone be sure the food is safe?

Our staff and volunteers work hard to ensure the food we provide to our partners is safe to eat. We check all items against food safety guidelines, but the large scale of our operation means, at times, an aging head of lettuce or spoiled carton of milk may exit our doors. If you receive something that appears to be expired, check the Food Keeper App to see if it’s still safe to eat. Also, keep an eye out at your local pantry for postings about recalled food. Did you know that many food items are safe to consume long past their best by dates? This is because food manufacturers typically err on the extreme safe side with expiration dates. You can contact the food bank’s Food Safety Officer, Denise Sweet, with questions at

What is a Mobile Food Pantry?

Mobile Food Pantries are like farmers markets on wheels that provide supplemental groceries—including produce, protein, dairy, grains and more—to anyone in need at no charge. The food distributions are run in partnership with local agencies like churches, schools and community centers. Learn more here!

Can I attend a Mobile Pantry outside of my county/city limits? 

Yes, you may attend any Mobile Food Pantries that are convenient for you. Unlike traditional food pantries, Mobile Pantries don’t have requirements—all they ask is that you confirm your need.

Is there a limit to how many Mobile Pantries I can attend? 

No, no one is keeping track of your attendance. You may attend Mobile Pantries as often or as little as you need to.

What will I receive at a Mobile Pantry? 

Every Mobile Pantry provides fresh produce and dairy products, but the specific items depend on season, availability and donations. Some of these food distributions also provide baked goods and/or protein, such as frozen chicken or canned salmon. At each Mobile Pantry, you’ll receive 9 to 11 grocery items, which will equal around 4 or 5 days of supplemental food.

How can I get food for my kids during the summer?

Gather 2 Grow is Feeding America West Michigan’s summer lunch program serving youth at local libraries in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Muskegon and Newaygo Counties. Any youth (18 and under) and disabled adults up to age 26 can receive nutritious meals at participating libraries during the summer at no cost. Various meal options including vegetarian and nut-free are available. You can find participating libraries and times of service at or on the resource map at

Is the food that you provide considered nutritious?

Yes! At Feeding America West Michigan, our volunteers work hard to sort through all the items donated to us and discard what’s unusable, and our staff works hard to prioritize nutritious options. In fact, in 2022, 82.9% of the food provided by our Mobile Food Pantry program was considered nutritious. This includes produce, dairy and protein. Also, over one-third of the total food we provided to our hunger-relief partners consisted of fruits and vegetables.

Today, many traditional food pantries allow people to shop as if they were at a grocery store, choosing the foods that are right for their families. New models like food clubs are also becoming more popular, where fruits and vegetables are as fresh as anywhere else—and “cost” fewer points than less-nutritious options.

In short, the food bank and our partner food pantries and meal programs work hard to ensure the food we offer our neighbors is worthy of our own dinner tables.

Are there any hunger-relief programs that deliver food? 

Yes, there are various hunger-relief programs across West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula that deliver food. To find out if any traditional pantries near you are among them, visit and reach out to the organizations directly to ask. Or, see if there’s a Meals on Wheels program nearby. These provide seniors who can’t leave home with ready-to-eat meals. Also consider calling 2-1-1 to ask for recommendations.

In some rural communities, the local bus system picks up food from Mobile Pantries to deliver to neighbors who cannot drive themselves. To find out if your local Mobile Pantry host site offers this, you will need to reach out to the sites on directly.

Can someone pick up food for me? Can I pick up food for someone else? 

Most Mobile Food Pantry sites allow “proxy pick-ups” but may have some restrictions—e.g. only allowing each car to pick up for three households. Be sure to call or check the website or social media pages of the Mobile Pantry host site you will be visiting to learn their requirements. In order to pick up for someone else, you must be able to provide their name, address and number of people in household—this data is kept anonymous and used only to gauge community need.

If you or anyone you know have any other questions about accessing charitable food, please let us know!

Written by Content Specialist Kelly Reitsma