FAQs

Have questions about the food bank? Hopefully you will find the answers to your questions below. If not, send us an email and we’ll get back to you right away.

FAQ

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

A: Feeding America West Michigan gathers and distributes food to relieve hunger and increase food security in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

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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 7. If those figures surprise you, that’s because you usually can’t tell by looking that people are hungry. Unemployment, under-employment, 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.

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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. Instead, the food bank provides food to a network of 900+ hunger-relief agencies. These include food pantries, soup kitchens, after-school programs, senior centers, and Mobile Food Pantry sites. Mobile Food Pantries serve anyone who asserts that they have a genuine need for food assistance. Feeding America West Michigan does not require proof of income. To find a hunger-relief agency or Mobile Pantry site in your area, click here.

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Q: Where can people go to get food?

A: At any of the 900+ hunger-relief agencies the food bank serves. Click here 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: Feeding America West Michigan is the “hub in the wheel,” the principal source of food for hundreds of hunger-relief agencies in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The food bank’s role is to reclaim large amounts of surplus food from farmers, retailers, and manufacturers, inspect, sort and repack that food, and distribute it to 900+ partner agencies. Not only is this good for the food bank’s clients, it also keeps millions of pounds of good food from going to waste. In 2018, Feeding America West Michigan distributed 25.1 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 21 million meals. No other organization in the food bank’s service area 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, the food bank notifies its agency partners of all applicable recalls. Because of Feeding America West Michigan’s strong track record of food safety, some of the food industry’s top companies trust the food bank with their donated product.

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Q: How much does the food bank charge for food?

A: The food bank doesn’t charge its clients a penny and insists that its partner agencies also provide food to all who need it free of charge. Because Feeding America West Michigan needs to cover its costs, the food bank does assess a small handling fee to these agencies when they order food. This fee equates to 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 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. The food bank inspects all of the food it receives according to proper safe food handling procedures. Only edible food goes to the 900+ hunger-relief agencies who depend on the food bank — and the clients who depend on them. While some of the 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: The food bank encourages 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 donated — then Feeding America West Michigan is an excellent choice. Browse the food bank’s annual report or latest financial information for more details about what Feeding America West Michigan can 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 it would be closing its branches in Sault Ste. Marie and Ishpeming. This does not mean that the food bank is leaving the Upper Peninsula. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Feeding America West Michigan is 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, the food bank aims to distribute 50% more food to the Upper Peninsula. Learn more.

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