Truck Drivers: The Backbone of the Food Bank

Kathy, one of our truck drivers

In order for any of the food gathered at the food bank to get to those who need it in the 40 counties we serve, a truck driver has to be there to distribute it. As the food bank staff who are always out in the community delivering food directly to those who need it, our truck drivers play an essential role in the work to end hunger. Without them, it would be more difficult for the people we serve to access the food they need to thrive. That’s why we are taking time this week to celebrate and show our appreciation to the backbone of the food bank: our truck drivers!

There’s no one better to tell you about what they do each day than the drivers themselves, so we chatted with a few of them to give a general overview of what they do on a day-to-day basis. Each food bank trucker has unique routes, but in general there are four truck routes that take place weekly: Mobile Food Pantries, direct delivery, retail pickup and branch transfers. Read on to hear about each of these routes from the perspective of the truck drivers!

Group photo of five truck drivers

Our Mobile Food Pantries bring fresh groceries directly into communities with a high need for food. They are essentially a farmers market on wheels, so it’s an effective avenue for distributing perishable food to those in need. In order for this food to get to those who need it, food bank staff will load up the truck, then a truck driver will bring it to the site of one of our Mobile Pantry partners and will help unload it so the food can be given to neighbors in need.

Mobile Pantries take place in 34 counties in our service area, all over West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. That means we have a few drivers whose routes involve going to the U.P. every week! For these routes, staff will load up the truck with about 30,000 pounds of food, enough for two Mobile Pantries, and then the driver will be on the road for what is typically a 4 day trip. Scott and Mark are two of our U.P. truck drivers, and they both noted that they’ve seen an increased need for food in the U.P. recently. Their roles as the ones bringing the food directly into these communities who really need it is so crucial!

Kenny, one of our truck drivers

Another route our truck drivers take each week is direct delivery, which can sometimes be referred to more specifically as depot delivery. This is when our drivers bring our partner agencies’ orders of food to convenient locations for pickup. One of our truck drivers, Kenny, said that one way direct deliveries work is by a driver bringing food directly inside a partner food pantry or meal program site. For example, he just recently delivered food to Meals on Wheels in Grand Rapids. Or, he said there’s depot delivery, which is a type of direct delivery where our driver brings food to a specific location to meet multiple of our hunger-relief partners for their food pickup. One depot delivery site in Muskegon meets twice a month, and 23 of our partner agencies in that area have utilized this one spot throughout the course of this year to pick up their food!

Kathy, one of our truck drivers

Retail pickup is the third type of route our drivers can take. We often receive food from local retailers, food manufacturers and food service distributors. Because of that, we have truck drivers who go pick up this food and bring it back to our warehouse or directly to partner agencies. Kathy is our U.P. retail pickup driver, which means she is driving all over the U.P. to pick up food from retailers and deliver it directly to our local partner food pantries and meal programs. Without this food, we wouldn’t be able to provide as much fresh and in season product to our neighbors in need.

Lastly, another important role of our truck drivers is facilitating branch transfers. We transfer food once a week from our main warehouse in Comstock Park to our branches in Benton Harbor and Cadillac! Our truck drivers are responsible for dropping food off at the branches so that from there, our branch staff can distribute the food to those in need in their area.

Food bank truck on the road

As you can tell, the role our truck drivers have of delivering nourishing food to wherever it needs to be is essential to our mission of gathering and distributing food to relieve hunger and increase food security. Their dedication to helping end hunger is remarkable, and we can’t tell them enough just how appreciated they are!

Ryan, our Logistics Manager, is in charge of coordinating each truck driver’s routes for the week. He expressed his gratitude for our drivers, saying, “I appreciate them because they are the backbone of our food distribution. The drivers are the food bank’s ambassadors, not only to our agencies, but also to our clients.”

Ken Estelle, our President and CEO added onto that and said, “Our truck drivers play a critical role in making sure we are able to provide safe and healthy food to our neighbors in all 40 counties of our service area. Having driven many deliveries and distributions myself, I know how much skill, patience and dedication it takes to execute this job so well every single day. I have so much respect and appreciation for our drivers!”

Thank you, truck drivers, for all you do to change lives through meals!

Our truck driving team is looking to expand! If you are interested in joining our team of fantastic truck drivers, check out this page to learn more.