The Rapidian

With demand rising, Food Bank issues plea for more volunteers

Feeding America West Michigan looks for more help as food insecurity persists.
Students from Grand Valley State University bagged turnips for families in need.

Students from Grand Valley State University bagged turnips for families in need. /Feeding America West Michigan

Underwriting support from:
Companies both local and national volunteer at the Food Bank. These Nestle employees sorted potatoes in early October.

Companies both local and national volunteer at the Food Bank. These Nestle employees sorted potatoes in early October. /Feeding America West Michigan

Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank is making a plea for more volunteers. Last year the Comstock Park-based hunger-relief organization was assisted by more than 2,300 volunteers in distributing 23.8 million pounds of food. They are on track to distribute even more this year.

More than 316,000 people are food insecure in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. When their resources are tight, they turn to food pantries, soup kitchens, even homeless shelters for help.

“Without us, all those agencies that serve those families don’t get food,” said Dena Rogers, volunteer coordinator at Feeding America West Michigan. Upwards of 1,200 hunger-relief agencies receive food from the organization.

Nationwide, food insecurity has not decreased significantly since 2008. It may in fact be increasing. As of September, Feeding America West Michigan’s food distribution was up 9.5 percent over last year.

“Not only has the need gone up, but we’ve been able to get more produce in to meet that need,” said Food Bank CEO Ken Estelle.

Feeding America West Michigan saw a 16 percent increase in fresh fruit and vegetable donations in 2012 — a boon for the thousands of impoverished Michigan families who struggle to afford nutritious food.

Yet more produce requires more handling, and that means volunteers. In an effort to process that food, Feeding America West Michigan is now open for food reclamation every Saturday.

“We know West Michigan has the capacity and the will to address hunger. We see that every day at the Food Bank. Right now we’re asking people to step up and help us get this abundance of food into the hands of the people who need it,” Estelle said.

Available dates can be viewed on the Food Bank’s volunteer calendar. Volunteers and group leaders are asked to sign up online prior to serving.

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