100 millionth pound distributed through Mobile Pantry program

Volunteers from St. Thomas the Apostle coordinate Mobile Pantries at Congress Elementary School in Grand Rapids each summer.

Volunteers from St. Thomas the Apostle coordinate Mobile Pantries at Congress Elementary School in Grand Rapids each summer.

October 20, 2014 — Comstock Park, Michigan — Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank’s 16-year-old Mobile Food Pantry program reached a new milestone in the fight against hunger this September, distributing its 100 millionth pound of food.

(Download the Press Release)

Developed in 1998 by Feeding America West Michigan’s former executive director John Arnold, the Mobile Pantry model provides a way to quickly distribute perishable foods like dairy, baked goods, and fresh fruits and vegetables to people in need wherever they live. This West Michigan idea spread quickly throughout the hunger-relief community and has been adopted by food banks from San Diego, California, to Portland, Maine.

“Mobile Pantries allowed, for the first time, large amounts of perishable product to be distributed to clients. Prior to that, these foods were hard to distribute in a normal pantry environment,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle.

In 2014, the Food Bank has distributed an average of 809,000 pounds of food per month on Mobile Pantries, making it very likely that this will be the program’s biggest year yet.

Today’s Mobile Pantry trucks are loaded with 5,000 to 10,000 pounds of food and delivered to a remote site, often a church or school parking lot. The food is displayed on tables in the manner of a farmers’ market where it can be collected by neighborhood families. Because Mobile Pantry distributions can be set up almost anywhere and generally take less than two hours to complete, the model has allowed Feeding America West Michigan to increase its outreach to communities, especially in the Upper Peninsula, where food pantries and community kitchens are scarce.

The model has also given non-hunger-relief organizations a chance to get involved. The American Legion post in Rockford has hosted a Mobile pantry for five years, serving thousands of Rockford-area families.

“We don’t have the facilities” to accommodate a traditional brick-and-mortar pantry, said post commander Clyde Sinclair. “This allows us to help.”

Feeding America West Michigan’s Mobile Pantry program has grown by 42 percent from 2008 to 2013 alone. Estelle attributes that growth to three factors: the increased quality of the food available on Mobile Pantries, vehicle grants that have grown the Food Bank’s truck fleet and extensive underwriting from foundations and individuals.

Those underwriters include the Allegan County Community Foundation, Archer Daniels Midland, Berrien Community Foundation, ConAgra, Darden Foundation, Fremont Area Community Foundation, Greater Ottawa County United Way, Mercy Health Partners, Morgan Stanley, Pokagon Fund, Tripura Foundation, Upton Foundation and Walmart Foundation.

For Estelle, the program is also personal. He and his wife, Kathy, helped bring one of Feeding America West Michigan’s Mobile Pantries to their church more than 10 years ago. Volunteering at the distributions was something of an epiphany for him.

“The thing that struck me was that these people were very much like me. Any of us are maybe one or two life events away from being in a position of needing help,” he said.

“They’re not different. They’re just our friends and neighbors.”

To meet a few of the people who have benefited from Feeding America West Michigan’s Mobile Pantry program, visit feedingamericawestmichigan.org/realstories.

Raise a glass, solve hunger at Brewery Vivant, Oct. 13

Brewery Vivant will donate 25 percent of sales to Feeding America West Michigan on Oct. 13.

Brewery Vivant will donate 25 percent of sales to Feeding America West Michigan on Oct. 13.

October 6, 2014 — Grand Rapids, Michigan — On Monday, Oct. 13, Brewery Vivant will donate 25 percent of all pub sales to Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. Each pint sold will send at least five meals to people in need in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

The Food Bank hopes to generate enough support on the 13th to send out 4,000 meals. Brewery Vivant has underwritten a total of 8,800 meals during past events.

This month, patrons of Brewery Vivant can sample a variety of fall-themed brews including an “autumnal ale” collaboration with Rockford Brewing, a molasses stout and a brand-new pumpkin ale, alongside flagship beers like Farm Hand, Triomphe and Big Red Coq. The pub menu is sourced largely from local farmers and reflects the changing seasons.

Brewery Vivant is located at 925 Cherry Street SE in Grand Rapids. The pub is open from 3 to 11 p.m. on Mondays.

Million Meal March raises $22,200 for local families

A group of hikers taking part in the Million Meal March on the White Pine Trail, Sept. 27, 2014.

A group of hikers taking part in the Million Meal March on the White Pine Trail, Sept. 27, 2014.

Food Bank CEO Ken Estelle, right, stands with operations manager Chad DeVries and Chad's daughters Taylor and Madelyn.

Food Bank CEO Ken Estelle, right, stands with operations manager Chad DeVries and Chad’s daughters Taylor and Madelyn.

Comstock Park, Michigan — September 29, 2014 — Hikers, bikers, runners, and walkers raised $22,200 for Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank at the Million Meal March on Saturday, Sept. 27. The total, which got a boost from contributions by National Food Group, Star Truck Rentals, Metro Health and other sponsors, will provide nearly 89,000 meals to people in need in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

The family-friendly event drew 176 participants, who hiked a 10-kilometer route along the White Pine Trail, beginning at Feeding America West Michigan’s Comstock Park headquarters.

“The weather was just impeccable,” said CEO Ken Estelle. “We were encouraged that so many people chose to spend part of this beautiful day taking a stand for the hungry in West Michigan.”

Music for the event was performed by local string band Hawks and Owls and DJ Keller Shaw, while Cyril Catering, The Corner Bar of Rockford, Country Fresh, Heeren Brothers Produce, Coca-Cola and Pepsi provided food and refreshments.

Donations to the Million Meal March may be made through Sept. 30 on CrowdRise.com.

The hike began at 10 a.m. at Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank.

The hike began at 10 a.m. at Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank.

Hikers start off on the White Pine Trail toward Belmont.

Hikers start off on the White Pine Trail toward Belmont.

This year's t-shirts were designed by Lansing-based company Live Love Michigan.

This year’s t-shirts were designed by Lansing-based company Live Love Michigan.

Food Bank invites community to kick hunger at Million Meal March 10K hike

September 17, 2014 — Comstock Park, Michigan — Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank is inviting the public to raise money and kick hunger on Sept. 27, at the Million Meal March, a 10K hike on the White Pine Trail.

MMM-logo

Now in its third year, the Million Meal March was created with a single goal: to raise $238,000 and distribute 1 million meals to people in need in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. To date, the 10K and related events have raised more than $200,000. Organizers are asking for strong support from the community this year in order to meet that million-meal goal.

“Hunger is an issue right here in our community, and I believe the answer has to come from this community as well,” said Ken Estelle, CEO of Feeding America West Michigan.

“The March is an opportunity for ordinary people to get involved in making a real difference in the lives of their neighbors in need.”

Every dollar donated to the Food Bank through the Million Meal March is used to provide four meals to people living on the edge of hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. A report released last month estimates that 492,000 people receive food from the organization each year, including approximately 119,400 children and 58,200 seniors.

“The truth is that for a large portion of our society, the economic recovery is still just a political talking point. We’ve got thousands of people looking for work and thousands more working two, sometimes three part-time jobs to get by,” Estelle said.

Participants are encouraged to raise $100, the equivalent of 400 meals) for Feeding America West Michigan, although the event is free to attend. The first 500 hikers will receive a free t-shirt, and The Corner Bar, Country Fresh and Cyril Catering will provide lunch at the Food Bank following the event. A shuttle is available at the halfway point for those who prefer to hike a 5K distance.

To register or donate, visit MillionMealMarch.org.