FAQs

Have questions about the Food Bank? Hope we’ve covered them here. If not, send us an email and we’ll get back to you right away. Thanks for your interest!

FAQ

Q: What is Feeding America West Michigan’s mission?

A: Feeding America West Michigan exists to ensure safe food is available to the hungry in our community.

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Q: Who needs the Food Bank in West Michigan?

A: Food insecurity affects 1 in 8 people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Among children alone, the number is 1 in 5. If those figures surprise you, that’s because you usually can’t tell by looking that people are hungry. Unemployment, underemployment, medical expenses, tuition, disability, and even a lack of physical proximity to healthy food can cause a person to be food insecure. This problem affects people from all backgrounds in urban, rural, and suburban communities. Each year, Feeding America West Michigan is able to distribute food to an estimated 492,100 people.

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Q: Who can get food from the Food Bank?

A: As a food bank, Feeding America West Michigan does not provide food directly to clients at our facilities. Rather, we provide food to a network of more than 1,000 hunger-relief agencies. These include food pantries, soup kitchens, after-school programs, senior centers, and Mobile Food Pantry sites. At our Mobile Food Pantries, we serve anyone who asserts that they have a genuine need for food assistance. We do not require proof of income. To find a hunger-relief agency or Mobile Pantry site in your area, visit our Find Food page.

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Q: Where can people go to get food?

A: At any one of the more than 1,000 hunger-relief agencies we serve. Visit our Find Food page to find a resource in your area.

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Q: If you don’t give food directly to people in need, what exactly is your purpose?

A: We’re the “hub in the wheel,” the principal source of food for more than 1,000 hunger-relief agencies in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Our role is to reclaim large amounts of surplus food from farmers, retailers, and manufacturers, inspect, sort and repack that food at our facility, and distribute it to our network of hunger-relief agencies. Not only is this good for our clients, it also keeps millions of pounds of good food from going to waste. In 2016, we distributed 28.9 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 24 million meals. No other organization in our region is able to address local hunger on that scale.

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Q: How can everyone be sure the food is safe?

A: Feeding America West Michigan’s warehouses are subject to regular food safety inspections from various organizations including the USDA, the national Feeding America office, and AIB International. In addition, we notify our agency partners of all applicable recalls. Because of our strong track record of food safety, the food industry’s top companies trust us with their donated product.

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Q: How much does the Food Bank charge for food?

A: We don’t charge our clients a penny. We insist that the hunger-relief agencies we work with provide food to all who need it free of charge. Because we have to cover our costs, we do assess a small handling fee to these agencies when they order food from us. This fee ranges from 6 to 18 cents per pound — roughly 10% of retail value.

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Q: Why do companies have so much surplus food?

A: Because the unexpected happens all the time, everywhere—even in big corporations. Each year, an estimated 40% of food produced in the United States goes to waste. At the industry level, food becomes surplus for many reasons: grocery stores over-order, vegetables are rejected because they don’t fit a retailer’s size or color requirements, manufacturers misprint food labels, and farms have bumper crops. Each year the 200-plus food banks in the nationwide Feeding America network are able to save and distribute 2 billion pounds of surplus food to people in need.

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Q: So you don’t give away spoiled food?

A: No. We inspect all the food we receive according to proper safe food handling procedures. Only edible food goes to the more than 1,000 hunger-relief agencies who depend on us — and the clients who depend on them. While some of our food is distributed past its printed sell-by or expiration date, it’s important to know that these dates often refer to peak quality, not safety.

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Q: We support our church’s food pantry. Why should we support the Food Bank?

A: Actually, we encourage people to support any organization that fights hunger. But if you’d like to support one that has a huge impact throughout West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, one that operates with incredible efficiency, providing four meals for every dollar, then Feeding America West Michigan is an excellent choice. Browse our annual report or latest financial information for more details about what we do with a dollar.

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Q: Why did you close your branches in the Upper Peninsula?

A: In January 2016, Feeding America West Michigan announced that we would be closing our branches in Sault Ste. Marie and Ishpeming. This does not mean we’re leaving the Upper Peninsula. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. We are transitioning from a branch-based distribution model to a model based on three distribution methods: Mobile Food Pantries, direct delivery to agencies, and depot deliveries. With this new strategy, we aim to distribute 50% more food to the Upper Peninsula. Learn more.

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