The Rapidian

Food Bank announces third-consecutive record year

More food was distributed in 2015 than in any of the past 34 years, says Feeding America West Michigan.
Mobile Food Pantries expanded greatly in 2015, bringing fresh produce to schools, churches and community centers.

Mobile Food Pantries expanded greatly in 2015, bringing fresh produce to schools, churches and community centers. /Feeding America

Underwriting support from:
Volunteers give away asparagus by the handful at Parkview Elementary School's Mobile Pantry in July.

Volunteers give away asparagus by the handful at Parkview Elementary School's Mobile Pantry in July. /Feeding America

Feeding America West Michigan serves 40 counties from its central warehouse in Comstock Park.

Feeding America West Michigan serves 40 counties from its central warehouse in Comstock Park. /Feeding America West Michigan

Feeding America West Michigan just finished up its third record year in a row, distributing 27.6 million pounds of food in 2015, the equivalent of 22 million meals. That’s an increase of 1.1 million pounds over 2014.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work our staff, volunteers and partner agencies have done to make this happen,” said CEO Ken Estelle. “It truly is a testament to the creativity and generosity of our community.”

Not only did total distribution increase - distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables grew from a quarter to more than a third of the food bank’s output. A large part of that growth can be attributed to the expansion of the food bank’s Mobile Pantry Program.

In 2015, Feeding America West Michigan received a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to bring Mobile Pantries to schools and senior centers throughout West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Each Mobile Pantry provides fresh produce, dairy products and baked goods to between 100 and 200 households. Requiring little more than a parking lot and a few volunteers, Mobile Pantries are ideal for serving rural and urban communities that lack traditional food pantries or accessible grocery stores.

In all, Feeding America West Michigan conducted 1,600 Mobile Pantry distributions in 2015. Estelle is pushing to increase that number this year, particularly in the Upper Peninsula, where need is high and local resources scarce.

“We’ve seen what can happen when communities are united on the issue of hunger,” Estelle said, pointing to Wexford County, where the Cadillac Area Community Foundation and the Cadillac Rotary Club have underwritten the food bank’s Mobile Pantry Program for years.

Other standout supporters of 2015 include the Fremont Area Community Foundation; United Way offices in Ottawa County, Southwest Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie; the Upton Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.

The year also saw enthusiastic support from individual donors, with online giving growing by 23 percent.

Looking back over the year, Estelle feels optimistic about 2016:

“Too many of our neighbors still struggle to afford the basics, but more and more, we’re seeing that people get it. They understand the need and they want to get involved. I firmly believe that if businesses, foundations, churches and individuals come together, we can solve hunger in our region.” 

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