The Rapidian

Feeding America West Michigan celebrates fourth record year

The organization provided 28.9 million pounds of food, making 2016 its fourth-consecutive year of growth.
Clients receive food at a Mobile Food Pantry hosted by Sibley Elementary, Nov. 2, 2016.

Clients receive food at a Mobile Food Pantry hosted by Sibley Elementary, Nov. 2, 2016. /Feeding America West Michigan

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Quick Facts

Food Insecurity Rates

West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula: 13 percent

Kent County: 12.6 percent

Michigan: 15.7 percent

United States: 15.4 percent

 

Food Distribution

Feeding America West Michigan Total: 28.9 million pounds (24 million meals)

Kent County Total: 7.74 million pounds (6.54 million meals)

Percentage of Fruits and Vegetables: 40 percent

Number of Food Donors: 348

 

Volunteers

Individual Volunteers: 1,811

Volunteer Hours: 20,994

New Volunteers: 819

Feeding America West Michigan's total food distribution has been steadily increasing since 2011.

Feeding America West Michigan's total food distribution has been steadily increasing since 2011. /Feeding America West Michigan

In 2016, Feeding America West Michigan distributed more food than ever before.

The nonprofit hunger relief organization, based in Comstock Park, provided 28.9 million pounds of food and household goods to its network of food pantries, soup kitchens, child hunger agencies and partner food banks, a 6.1 percent increase over 2015.

“This is now the fourth year in a row that we’ve been able to provide a record amount of food to people in need,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle. “I’m incredibly proud of the work our team has done to make this happen. Not only our staff, but also our donors, volunteers and agency partners.”

Feeding America West Michigan’s food reaches an estimated half million people each year.

Amy Chavez is one of them. Raising three grandchildren on her own and living on a retiree’s fixed income, Chavez receives food once a month from North End Community Ministry, one of Feeding America West Michigan’s partner agencies in Grand Rapids. Inspired by the assistance she receives, Chavez now volunteers at NECM regularly, assisting other clients and translating for the when needed.

“I can count on them,” she said of her NECM community. “I can feel comfortable in life knowing there’s a place like this that can help me. I have friends and have food on my table because of them.”

NECM is just one of nearly 1,100 local partner agencies Feeding America West Michigan supplies with food in 40 Michigan counties. Most of that food is donated to Feeding America West Michigan by farmers, grocery stores and food processors, with high-demand items like peanut butter, turkey and canned vegetables purchased as needed.

Healthy food remains a central priority. In that respect, 2016 was also a milestone year: For the second year in a row, fruits and vegetables accounted for 40 percent of the product the organization distributed.

“As a food bank, we have a responsibility to the families we serve to make sure they have access not just to calories but to food that’s truly nourishing and sustaining,” Estelle said.

Much of Feeding America West Michigan’s fresh produce, dairy products and other healthy, perishable foods are distributed directly to clients through its Mobile Food Pantry program. Boosted by grant funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Mobile Pantry program grew by 10.2 percent in 2016, providing a total of 11.8 million pounds of food at 1,743 distributions.

With the grant period coming to a close, Feeding America West Michigan is seeking new donors to ensure that those Mobile Pantry distributions continue in 2017.

That support is urgently needed, as one in eight people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula struggles to put food on the table.

“We invite anyone, whether they’re an individual, a business owner or a church group, to consider volunteering at a Mobile Pantry,” Estelle said. “When you see the impact your time and your gifts can have on local families, it’s really incredible.”

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