Hunger rate rises in West Michigan, Upper Peninsula according to new report

Released April 14, Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap report concluded that 49 million Americans struggled with hunger in 2013, including one in seven people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Released April 14, Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap report concluded that 49 million Americans struggled with hunger in 2013, including one in seven people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Comstock Park, Michigan — April 20, 2015 — For the first time in five years, the percentage of people struggling with hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula has increased, according to a new study by Feeding America. Hunger threatens one in seven people in the region, including one in five children.

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The researchers behind Map the Meal Gap 2015, released April 14, brought together the latest data from the United States Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau to determine that 49 million Americans were at risk of hunger in 2013. The national rate of 15.8 percent is down from 15.9 percent in 2012.

Volunteers bag onions for local families at a Mobile Food Pantry at Baldwin Community Schools, April 17.

Volunteers bag onions for local families at a Mobile Food Pantry at Baldwin Community Schools, April 17.

The report finds 330,910 people at risk of hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, the region served by Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. That represents an increase in the food insecurity rate from 13.4 percent in 2012 to 14 percent in 2013.

While that rate is lower than the overall state figure of 16.4 percent, Feeding America West Michigan’s service area contains some of the highest-need communities in Michigan. Rural communities in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are especially vulnerable with Lake County laying claim to the highest childhood food insecurity rate in the state at 31.4 percent.

“Even as the economy improves, far too many people are still struggling to meet their basic needs,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle. “This report provides further evidence that more work needs to be done on this issue.”

The need for food assistance has grown greatly in the last decade, and Feeding America West Michigan has grown with it. Sourcing food from hundreds of farmers, retailers and processors, the Food Bank distributes millions of meals to people in need each year through a network of more than 1,100 food pantries, soup kitchens and afterschool programs. In 2014, the Food Bank distributed 26.5 million pounds of food (a record for the organization) and is currently trending 5 percent ahead of 2014 after the first quarter.

“It’s never simply about the volume of food,” Estelle emphasized. “We want to make sure we’re getting the right kinds of food to the communities where need is highest.”

Beginning in 2013, Feeding America West Michigan expanded its distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables to two high-risk population groups: local schools and rural communities in the Upper Peninsula. Fifteen schools are currently enrolled in the Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry program with another five expected to join by the end of the school year, while Mobile Food Pantry distribution to the Upper Peninsula began in 2013 and reached 300,000 pounds last year.

“The economics of need are very complex, but the bottom line for us is simple: None of our neighbors should have to face an empty cupboard when they come home at the end of the day. There’s enough food to feed everyone in our state, and with enough community support, we can make that happen,” Estelle said.

Findings from Map the Meal Gap 2015

• Average Cost of a Meal in the U.S.: $2.79
• Average Cost of a Meal in Michigan: $2.57
• 49 million Americans are food insecure
• 15.8 million American children are food insecure
• 1.6 million Michiganders are food insecure
• 480,490 Michigan children are food insecure
• 330,910 people are food insecure in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula
• 113,890 children are food insecure in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula

Data from Map the Meal Gap 2015

Data from Map the Meal Gap 2015

About Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. Serving local families in need since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank reclaims safe surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. We distribute that food through a network of more than 1,100 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters in 40 counties from the Indiana border through the Upper Peninsula. Each year, an estimated 492,100 people receive food from Feeding America West Michigan. For more information, visit FeedingAmericaWestMichigan.org.

About Map the Meal Gap. Map the Meal Gap 2015 is based on an analysis of statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. The study is supported by founding sponsor The Howard G. Buffett Foundation as well as The ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen. The lead researcher is Dr. Craig Gundersen, professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, executive director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group. To view the data, visit Map.FeedingAmerica.org.

Letter Carriers to Stamp Out Hunger in Grand Rapids, May 9

Food Drive '15 (RGB) flat-Banner Only-smaller

This will be the NALC's 23rd Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

This will be the NALC’s 23rd Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

Grand Rapids, Michigan — April 14, 2015 — On Saturday, May 9, Grand Rapids will take part in the 23rd-annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, coordinated by the National Association of Letter Carriers. All food collected in Grand Rapids will be donated to Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank.

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“The Letter Carriers are one of our oldest partners in hunger relief,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle. “Year after year, they give their time and money to organize this enormous effort — our biggest food drive of the year. The food we collect on this one day will reach thousands of people.”

Giving to Stamp Out Hunger is simple — anyone with a postal address can participate. Those who want to give should fill a bag with good, nonperishable food and set it by their mailbox prior to their regular delivery time on May 9. The Letter Carriers will do the rest.

“Six days a week, letter carriers see first-hand the needs in the communities where we work, and we’re committed to helping meet those needs,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said of the effort.

Last year, Grand Rapids collectively gave nearly 94,000 pounds of food during Stamp Out Hunger, enough to provide 73,500 meals to people in West Michigan. To date, Stamp Out Hunger has collected over 1 billion pounds of food for hunger-relief organizations around the country.

Hunger threatens 1 in 7 people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Among kids, the rate is 1 in 5. Feeding America West Michigan just wrapped up a record year, with 26.5 million pounds of food distributed in 2014.

“The need for food hasn’t decreased in our community,” Estelle said. “We’re asking everyone to give what they can and help us Stamp Out Hunger this year.”

About the Organizations

Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. Serving local families in need since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank reclaims safe surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. We distribute that food through a network of more than 1,100 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters in 40 counties from the Indiana border through the Upper Peninsula. Each year, an estimated 492,100 people receive food from Feeding America West Michigan. For more information, visit FeedingAmericaWestMichigan.org.

National Association of Letter Carriers. Founded in 1889, NALC is the union of city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service, delivering mail, six days a week, to more than 150 million homes and businesses in every city, suburb and town in America. For more information, visit NALC.org.

Mattner family donates portion of Benton Harbor Fruit Market to Food Bank

A Food Bank truck delivers food at Feeding America West Michigan's Comstock Park headquarters.

A Food Bank truck delivers food at Feeding America West Michigan’s Comstock Park headquarters.

Benton Harbor, Michigan — March 16, 2015 — A big slice of the Benton Harbor Fruit Market is now dedicated to hunger relief.

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The family of Eau Claire farmer and produce broker Jeffery Marc Mattner donated its buildings and fixtures located at the Benton Harbor Fruit Market to Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. The property includes offices, 20 market stalls and a combined 4,800 square feet of industrial cooler space. Mattner passed away in late 2012.

“The Mattners have been donating their produce to the Food Bank for years. This gift is just another way they’re supporting hunger relief in the Benton Harbor area,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle.

“We’re touched by their generosity.”

The organization is still considering how best to use the property, which could serve as overflow space for storing fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables now account for more than a quarter of the food Feeding America West Michigan distributes each year.

“Berrien County farmers like the Mattners are central to our work,” Estelle said. “Because they share their produce with us, we can provide food to hundreds of thousands each year.”

Last year, Feeding America West Michigan distributed a record-setting 26.5 million pounds of food to food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters from Southwest Michigan through the Upper Peninsula. The organization’s Benton Harbor branch supplies food to more than 170 hunger-relief agencies in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

To support Feeding America West Michigan and its effort to solve hunger in our community, visit FeedingAmericaWestMichigan.org.

Feeding America West Michigan to expand fresh food distributions with CSX, Conservation Fund grant

Feeding America West Michigan's CSX/Conservation Fund grant will fund Mobile Food Pantry distributions like this one.

Feeding America West Michigan’s CSX/Conservation Fund grant will fund Mobile Food Pantry distributions like this one.

CSX and the Conservation Fund announced today that Feeding America West Michigan is one of 10 charitable organizations in the South, Midwest and on the East Coast to receive grants to improve the transportation and distribution of fresh, healthy food to communities in need. Each organization will receive $10,000 to enhance food delivery services so that they can bring fresh, nutritious food to their communities.

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In many underserved communities food distribution organizations, such as food pantries, encounter difficulty getting fresh, healthy food. Many producers and organizations also face challenges retaining quality and safety as they sell, store, package and distribute fresh food. As a result, more than 23 million Americans across the country have limited or no access to fresh produce, dairy, meats and seafood.

Feeding America West Michigan will use its grant to purchase a refrigerated straight truck, which will expand its program capacity and broaden Mobile Food Pantry distribution to additional individuals within communities in need of fresh food in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Feeding America West Michigan’s Mobile Food Pantries are particularly effective in areas where there is inadequate “hunger infrastructure,” such as a lack of food pantries or pantries that are limited in hours or refrigerated storage capacity. The refrigerated straight truck will bring 21 new distributions of fresh food annually to more than 7,000 underserved, food-insecure individuals in the Upper Peninsula by January 2017.

As a leading supplier of efficient rail-based freight transportation in North America, CSX recognizes the integral role that transportation plays in connecting communities.

“At CSX, it’s our job to connect communities through transportation every day, so we are proud to work with the Conservation Fund to support the local distribution of healthy and fresh food across many of the communities where we work and live,” said Tori Kaplan, assistant vice president for corporate social responsibility at CSX. “Partnering with local organizations helps us live our commitment to improving the health and wellness of communities across our 21,000 miles of track.”

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit dedicated to finding conservation solutions that balance environmental and economic needs, has partnered with CSX to help address gaps in local food distribution and enhance delivery capabilities.

“With CSX’s partnership, we’re not only helping to connect America’s families to fresh fruit and produce but we’re also supporting our local farmers and working farms,” said Kris Hoellen, vice president of sustainable programs at the Conservation Fund. “The Healthy Food Transportation Grant Program is a clear win for American families and farmers.”

The grant program supports organizations that distribute fresh produce and perishable food in the 23 states where CSX operates. Combined, the 10 recipient organizations provide 118,000,000 pounds of nutritious food, the equivalent of 98,000,000 meals, to approximately 6 million people per year.

The other grant recipients include Capital Roots in N.Y., the Chattanooga Area Food Bank and Feeding America Tampa Bay.