Food Insecurity Can Affect Anyone; A Look at Hunger at a Mobile Pantry in Zeeland

Volunteer smiling at a Mobile Pantry

On a day when the weather alternated from rainy to sunny, hundreds of people showed up to a Mobile Food Pantry at Community Reformed Church in Zeeland to receive food.

Sue, the coordinator for the church’s Mobile Pantries, has definitely noticed an increase in the amount of people in need of food assistance recently. The average number of individuals served through their Mobile Pantries for the past few months has been in the 500’s, which includes nearly 200 children and 20 veterans each month.

“Last month and the month before we had a lot of people report that they were having their food stamps cut. And we have a lot of seniors come through who can’t make ends meet.”

People can be in need of food assistance for a wide range of reasons; it can happen to anyone. Often it’s a one-time situation where someone just needs a little extra food to get by, due to an unexpected expense. Or, it can be because of circumstances such as the recent cut of food stamps in Michigan which left many children without the meals their families were previously getting. Many seniors living on a fixed income also have difficulty getting the food they need on top of paying medical bills.

As you read each story below, remember that food insecurity looks different for everybody, and you never know why someone might be in need of food assistance.

Laurie’s story

Laurie smiling with a cart of food

One volunteer, Laurie, helps out at Mobile Pantries because she and her daughter needed food assistance in the past.

“A few years ago my daughter and I were in poor shape financially and needed food assistance. That’s how I first found out about Feeding America West Michigan. Now I get to give back!”

Single-parent households experience food insecurity at some of the highest rates, especially single-mother households. Yet, stories like Laurie’s exemplify the fact that people in need of food assistance don’t always consistently need help, many times they just need a little support to fill a temporary gap. That’s where the food bank was available as a solution for a mother who needed to provide much needed food for her child as well as herself.

Esequiel’s story

Esequiel smiling while holding up food

Esequiel’s father is a senior living on social security. He got injured and is no longer able to go to Mobile Pantries to pick up his own food, so Esequiel goes to get some for him and their family instead. He said it helps cover what his father can’t buy with his limited income.

“This food helps meet the needs for the month. It helps everybody immensely and helps a dollar stretch out a little more.”

Esequiel expressed that every item he has picked up for his family has been helpful as they navigate rising prices as well as having grandkids to feed.

Brenda’s story

Brenda smiling while holding food

Brenda loves helping others and came to the Mobile Pantry to pick up food for herself and some of her neighbors. She realized many of her fellow community members could use some food assistance and wanted to take an extra step by bringing it right to their doors.

“I’ve seen families who have had jobs cut, and with rising costs, they can’t always afford food.”

Her husband was dealing with health issues before his recent passing and Brenda found the Mobile Pantries to be helpful while they navigated that difficult time. They could pick up a variety of foods and especially appreciated items that worked for her husband’s dietary needs.

People receiving charitable food continually express a desire to have access to nutritious options. 90% of surveyed Mobile Pantry clients said they are interested in eating more fruits and vegetables. This factors into why Mobile Pantries intentionally include numerous fresh produce options that can be helpful for a wide range of diets and preferences.

Kevin’s story

Kevin smiling holding a box of food

Kevin also showed up to pick up food for others, but in his case it was for his sisters. Both of his sisters were working and couldn’t make it to the Mobile Pantry on their own. On top of being busy with work, one of his sister’s daughters is on oxygen 24/7 which makes it very difficult for them to leave the house and get to the store for food.

“Both [of my sisters] don’t make a lot of money right now. It’s very beneficial to get some food to eat.”

Something that is important to note based on Kevin’s sister’s realities is that having a job does not prevent food insecurity. In fact, 61% of food insecure households hold jobs that simply don’t pay enough to make ends meet.

Volunteers pushing carts of food

As you can see through these stories, all neighbor’s situations are both unique and important, especially as they relate to the work of the food bank. Feeding America West Michigan’s Mobile Food Pantries, like this one that took place in Ottawa County, are available to all, at no cost. Providing access to food for anyone who may need it, despite their circumstances, is a crucial part of this food bank program.

To learn more about the work of the food bank, check out our “What We Do” page!