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With the forecast for Saturday promising sun, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank is heading into the Million Meal March Trail Hike having collected over $48,000 to feed struggling families. The Million Meal March is more than a fifth of the way to reaching its million-meal goal, and the campaign hasn’t officially begun.
The Million Meal March is a six-month campaign to raise $238,000, the cost of distributing 1 million meals to food pantries, domestic violence shelters and soup kitchens from Benton Harbor through the western Upper Peninsula. By one recent measure, food insecurity — the percentage of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from — stands at 15.1 percent in West Michigan.
Local businesses have been instrumental in the campaign so far, from quirky neighborhood restaurants like Brick Road Pizza to companies with national clout like Wolverine Worldwide. In both cases, the campaign’s sponsors are doing their part to support Feeding America West Michigan.
As Mike Talaski of W.W. Williams explained, “We thought this was the best way to get it down to the ground where it’s really needed.”
Now that local businesses have set the table, the Food Bank is asking individuals to serve the meal by taking part in a 10K hike on Sept. 29. “You can walk, you can bike, you can bring your kids, strollers, pets — anything. We want this to be absolutely huge,” said Linda Vanderbaan, fund development manager at Feeding America West Michigan.
The hike begins at 10 a.m. in front of the Food Bank’s headquarters in Comstock Park, where it follows the White Pine Trail to Rogue River Park in Belmont and back, a distance of about 6 miles. The Corner Bar of Rockford will serve lunch at the turnaround point in Belmont. Hikers will find Country Fresh ice cream waiting for them at the finish line. Three local bands — Hawks and Owls, Chinese Baseball, and Suburban 5&10 — are set to perform throughout the morning.
“A million meals is no small challenge,” Vanderbaan said, “so we’re encouraging everyone who participates to raise $100 for the Food Bank.” All hikers who meet that goal will receive a Million Meal March T-shirt.
To register online, visit MillionMealMarch.org.
One of the nation’s largest and most effective food banks, Feeding America West Michigan reclaims edible surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. It stores, processes and distributes that food through 1,200 local food pantries and other hunger relief agencies in 40 counties from the Indiana border through the Upper Peninsula. More than 100,000 families rely on food from Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank.