It all began with a root vegetable: carrots. Rev. Don Eddy, director of United Methodist Metropolitan Ministries, called a meeting to discuss the concept of a West Michigan agency resembling Gleaners Community Food Bank, which was founded in 1977 in Detroit. He made the decision to assemble such a group after seeing a truckload of perfectly good carrots being composted on a farm in Grant. On that day, he asked the farmers to stop dumping and told them that he knew a lot of people struggling to put food on their tables who could really benefit from the carrots.
Joined America’s Second Harvest
The food bank joined America’s Second Harvest (now known as Feeding America), a budding national network of food banks that’s now 200 food banks strong.
Food Bank Council of Michigan established
The Food Bank Council of Michigan was founded through the cooperative efforts of the state’s regional food banks (there are 7). The purpose of FBCM was to implement a unified strategy to address and alleviate hunger statewide by increasing emergency food resources and advocating on behalf of the hunger-relief network.
Manna Food Project joins fight against hunger
We partnered with Manna Food Project, established in 1987, to fight hunger Antrim, Charlevoix, and Emmet counties in Northwest Michigan.
Formed a partnership with the Western U.P. Food Bank
We began working with the Western U.P. Food Bank to serve Houghton, Baraga and Keweenaw Counties.
Waste Not Want Not study findings published
The food bank commissioned a study from the Michigan State University Extension in 1994 that finished two years later. Its findings suggested food pantries increase client choice, provide food without time limits and use the food bank more often to save money. According to a follow-up report from the MSU Extension four years after the study, the food bank increased food distribution to partners by 55 percent in those four years. John Arnold wrote a summary of the findings called Charity Food Programs That Can End Hunger in America.
1st Mobile Food Pantry
John Arnold came up with the idea for Mobile Pantries after seeing a beverage truck driving down the road. He thought the sliding doors on the sides would be perfect for quickly distributing food. One of the food bank’s most enduring and successful programs, it has now been adopted by food banks nationwide! Today, our Mobile Pantry partners host an average of 100 of these food distributions each month.
John Arnold’s fellow speech
Executive Director John Arnold was named Feeding America’s 2010 John van Hengel fellow. The award honors the ideals of the late John van Hengel, who developed the concept of food banking in the 1960s. It recognizes an executive of a member food bank for excellence in leadership, local impact and national influence, and entrepreneurial spirit in the area of hunger relief. As part of his fellowship, John delivered this speech to the network.
Kenneth Estelle Takes The Helm as CEO
Kenneth first connected with the food bank’s mission when volunteering at Mobile Pantries with his wife, Kathy — something they still do today. After John announced his retirement, Kenneth ended his 30-year career in aerospace to fill John’s shoes. At that time, he told an MLive reporter “to me, this change is thrilling and I couldn’t imagine a more exciting mission.”
Community Food Club launched
Along with 6 other local organizations, the food bank helped the Community Food Club launch. Costco’s membership model inspired this “innovative and dignified approach to food security rooted in consumer choice, member participation, and access to healthy foods.”
Fresh Start initiative launched
The Fresh Start initiative aims to break the cycle of poor nutrition that leads to chronic disease and impaired development.
Between March 16 and August 31, our network made a big impact! We continued working to meet the heightened need throughout 2020. By the end of the year, we had distributed 28.3 million pounds of food — equivalent to 23.6 million meals. Much of this food was distributed through our Mobile Pantries, which saw a 64% increase in attendance.
BBB Torch Award
In 2020, Feeding America West Michigan received a Torch Award for Ethics through the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. Torch Awards for Ethics recognize businesses and nonprofits that demonstrate integrity and a strong commitment to ethics in all that they do.
Though the food bank has changed over the years, our commitment to feeding neighbors in need has remained steadfast. For as long as hunger threatens our communities, Feeding America West Michigan will be there to lend a helping hand. See our 40th-year webpage.