At Feeding America West Michigan, we believe hunger is unacceptable and that our community has the power to change lives — one meal at a time. That’s why we’ve assembled a network of partners that we work alongside on our mission to reduce hunger and increase food security in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
Click to expand the categories below and learn exactly what we do on the road to distributing an average of 21 million meals’ worth of food to neighbors in need throughout our 40-county service area each year.
What We Do
Food waste occurs at every stage of the food system — from the farm to the dinner table. Estimates show that up to 40% of food is wasted in North America. By reclaiming safe, surplus food, the food bank prevents it from ending up in a landfill.
Sometimes the food is delivered to one of our warehouses, but frequently the food bank picks up donations. In regions where we have a Partner Distribution Organization (PDO) or a Redistribution Organization (RDO), they handle local donations for us.
As a federally recognized hunger-relief organization, we receive USDA foods that we distribute throughout our service area. Additionally, we receive reimbursement that supports our mission in exchange for helping run federal programs — like the Summer Food Service Program, known as Meet Up & Eat Up in Michigan. The food bank manages all of the logistics for multiple Meet Up & Eat Up sites each year.
We believe nutritious food is an essential piece of a healthy life. With this belief in mind, we purchase food at low costs to fill any nutritional gaps left by donations and USDA foods. For example, we compensate farmers to reclaim their end-of-season crops that would otherwise go unharvested.
In other instances, we purchase bulk food directly from retailers at discounted prices. These are items we receive as donations only rarely, but ones our agency partners desperately need — such as shelf-stable snacks for backpack programs.
Grantors, business and individual donors, make this possible.
Upon arrival at the food bank, food is inspected and if necessary, sorted, repackaged and labeled by staff and volunteers. Volunteers are the food bank’s lifeblood. Each year, hundreds of volunteers serve thousands of hours in our warehouse, doing tasks such as sorting through food donations, portioning bulk food items into family-sized bags and creating meal boxes. Without their dedication to the fight against hunger, we couldn’t make the difference that we do.
After it has been processed, the food is then safely stored until it can be distributed throughout our 40-county service area.
Our Mobile Food Pantry program brings fresh groceries directly into communities with a high need for food support. A Mobile Food Pantry is essentially a farmers market on wheels, so it’s an effective avenue for distributing fresh, perishable food to those who need it. In preparation for each event, one of the food bank’s trucks is filled with 5,000 – 20,000 pounds of food — at least half of which is fresh produce — and driven to the site where it will be distributed by one of our Mobile Pantry partners.
We have the ability to handle large quantities of food that our agency partners — including food pantries, food clubs (co-ops), shelters and more — are unable to handle because they lack sufficient space, equipment or staff. Therefore, we are the primary and most cost-effective source of food for many of our agency partners’ hunger-relief programs.
The programs our agency partners run are diverse, but they all have one thing in common: a goal to end hunger in their communities. Partnering with the food bank enhances their capacity to serve neighbors in need.
40 percent of the food Feeding America West Michigan distributes is fresh, frozen or shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. The rest is comprised of meat, dairy and other foods such as baked goods and various non-perishable items.
We source nutritious food through our Fresh Start initiative to fill any gaps left by donations and USDA food. Overall, the initiative aims to nourish, empower and enable our neighbors to thrive. Not only are we providing our neighbors in need with fresh, nutritious food, we are also arming them with knowledge and tools to set the foundation for a healthy life.
Through the processes listed above, we work every day to make our vision – a community in which all neighbors are nourished and empowered within an equitable food system – a reality. Read our blog and connect with us on social media @feedingwestmich to follow along as we work together to end hunger in our service area. See how you can take action against hunger.