Meet a Food Banker: Danielle Sheffield LaPorte

Danielle's headshot

Danielle's headshot

Danielle Sheffield LaPorte is the Chair of the Board of Directors for Feeding America West Michigan! A passionate food bank advocate, Danielle became a member of the board in 2014 and took on the role of Chair in 2023 after previously serving as Secretary and Vice Chair. Read on to learn more about Danielle!

What led you to getting involved with the food bank?

I began my career in nonprofit management at Baxter Community Center where I did fund development and program management. I launched their greenhouse program, which included urban agriculture initiatives and cooking and nutrition classes for youth and families. That was my first introduction to the food bank. Feeding America West Michigan provided the produce for our canning classes. Working with that program at Baxter is what introduced me to what localized food insecurity looks like. When I was invited to join the board in 2014, I had transitioned out of direct service work and into equity and inclusion consulting. I was excited to join the board to keep my connection to food security issues in community and bring in a systemic equity lens to Feeding America West Michigan’s strategy. My time in direct service taught me the value of ensuring neighbors are leading the work to define what is needed, and my time in consulting has helped me see how to connect the dots across sectors to meet that need.

Feeding America West Michigan is uniquely positioned in the community and has an opportunity to lead up front and from behind. We serve such a large geography; we can lead out front by trying out some innovative things and spreading what works across our service area. And we can lead from behind by serving the community and our partners really well, being a listener and collaborator.

What motivates you to fight hunger?

I’ve had people in my life personally affected by food insecurity, and I see the difference it makes knowing your next meal isn’t a worry or knowing that your kids are getting the nutrition they need. I think about people I know that have had bouts of food insecurity for lots of different reasons; sometimes it’s situational and sometimes it’s longstanding. Regardless, it makes a big difference when the community can demonstrate that people aren’t alone in that need, and that we believe everyone has a right to food.

What’s your favorite part about being on the board?

I learn from our board members’ expertise constantly, and I appreciate opportunities for us to challenge ourselves to grow. I have really enjoyed volunteering outside of our meetings. It’s a very cool way as a board to spend our time together. Getting to see the day-to-day work that happens gives us a great appreciation for staff and for the community and all they commit to. The nature of our mission is collaborative, so to see that collaboration at work and people coming together for a common goal is really special. I’ve also been able to attend Feeding America national conferences, and that is always incredibly inspiring. It’s amazing to hear from food banks all over the country, learn from what they’re doing and bring that home to Michigan.

Why is it important for the community to take action?

I think we as a society are living with a lot of division and different opinions on important issues. To me, addressing hunger is an opportunity for unity. It’s one of those key basic needs, and food security is a human right. We need to advocate for strong policy and do work at a system’s level, but what’s exciting is that this is one issue where you really can help a neighbor on your own, too. I think that can be energizing and unifying for people that no matter your opinion or background, everyone can get involved in their community with food security. Whether that’s helping at a Mobile Pantry, doing a food drive, donating $5 a month or participating at a food pantry, there’s a ton of ways to help and it’s really nice to know that you’re making a tangible difference for someone who could be your next-door neighbor. This is one issue that feels like you can accomplish something today, right now.