Partnering with Westside Schools to Feed Families in Need

Volunteer holding up bags of carrots at a Mobile Pantry

Raising kids can cost a lot of money. Buying clothes, getting food and paying for school can all add up fast and make it tough for families to meet all their needs.

Getting enough food is an important first step to ensuring kids can achieve their goals. However, at least 1 in 12 children in Kent County don’t have enough to eat every day. And, we know that food insecurity is on the rise in our community, and especially so for households with children.

Hosting Mobile Food Pantries at schools can often make it easier for those with children to come and get the food they need to feed their families by meeting them where they’re already at.

Because of this, some Westside schools in Grand Rapids partner with the food bank to host Mobile Food Pantries in Kent County in order to help combat food insecurity in their communities.

Sara, a community school coordinator through Kent Schools Services Network (KSSN), helps coordinate some of these Mobile Pantries. She plays an integral role in ensuring food gets to those who need it, and through her role with the school, has a clear understanding of what the need for food looks like in the community.

“Hosting Mobile Pantries at the school makes accessing this resource more comfortable for families. As the coordinator for the school, typically I know the families and can greet them as they come through the line. Also, school staff is usually on hand so parents and families see the principal or a teacher or two. Those that come to receive food get to see that there are people that consistently care that families have access to food.”

Britnee holding up carrots by her car

Britnee is a mother of 8 who just recently moved to Michigan. Her husband works all day and she takes care of their kids, but with a lot of mouths to feed and high costs of living, she sought out food assistance through the Mobile Pantry at Stocking Elementary to help support her family.

“We make sure our necessities are met with housing and everything, but then food just comes last.”

In order for all of her kids to thrive, she knew that receiving food assistance would make providing for her family a little bit easier. The food from the Mobile Pantry was exactly what she needed in order to keep going despite the challenges her family faces. She was able to take home apples, grapes, potatoes, carrots and more.

“Being able to get fresh food is the biggest thing. With a chronic illness, having fresh food makes a difference in how I feel. And for the younger kids to be exposed to fresh foods is important.”

On average in 2023, the food bank’s Mobile Pantries have consisted of over 59% fresh produce, 16% dairy and 6% protein. Providing nourishing food is a priority when serving our neighbors in need!

Volunteer holding bags of food outside school Mobile Pantry

Lesvia is a dedicated volunteer with the Mobile Food Pantries at Sibley Elementary and says she definitely knows that the food being distributed is meeting a great need in the community.

“It’s a lot of help for the people around here. They always say it’s appreciated to get fruits and veggies. Some parents don’t qualify for receiving government food assistance, so when they see Feeding America West Michigan here, they come. I feel happy because I know a lot of people need this.”

She helps out at the schools because she enjoys working with children and being able to support them.

Often times, students from the schools will join in volunteering to provide food to their community.

One student from Union High School helped volunteer at Mobile Pantries as a part of being in their National Honor Society program.

“I want to do the best I can to impact my school and my community. I know all of these people are in need, so I want to do the best I can to help.”

Apples

Children with enough to eat can focus on the things that matter most—like learning, playing and connecting. Lifting the burden parents can face of finding food to fill the table every day is what our Mobile Food Pantries can do.

Thousands of neighbors are experiencing hunger today in West Michigan. We couldn’t do this without the hard work and dedication from our Mobile Pantry partners, like KSSN and those at Westside schools. And, feeding families like these would not be possible without the financial support from Mitten Foundation, Fresh Thyme Market and Display Pack! By working together, we can change lives through meals and end hunger in our community.

Written by Content Specialist Kelly Reitsma