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.

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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.

Hunger Action Week addresses malnutrition in Kent County

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Lyn Carey from Alliance For Health completes the sentence "I fight hunger because..." in her #paperplateselfie.

Lyn Carey from Alliance For Health completes the sentence “I fight hunger because…” in her #paperplateselfie.

September 10, 2014 — Grand Rapids, Michigan — Several Grand Rapids-area hunger-relief organizations are coming together for Hunger Action Week, Sept. 14-20, a series of events whose mission is to educate West Michigan about the reality of local hunger and provide practical ways to get involved.

“We live in one of the most prosperous communities in Michigan. We shouldn’t be content to let anyone to go hungry,” said Emma Garcia, hunger response director for Access of West Michigan and a Hunger Action Week coordinator.

One in seven Kent County residents is struggling with hunger, yet “hunger” can be a misleading term. For most people in West Michigan, finding calories isn’t a problem. The challenge is finding good nutrition.

“Unfortunately, we have a food system that promotes cheap, high-calorie foods over food that is actually nourishing,” Garcia said. “American hunger could really be described as malnutrition. It’s a serious health risk.”

According to a recent study by Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, 64.6 percent of Food Bank clients in Kent County resort to purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food in order to stretch their limited budgets. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that more than a quarter also list their health status as “poor” and that more than a third have a household member with diabetes.

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With events like a hunger simulation at the YMCA, a screening of HBO’s “The Weight of the Nation” and a Healthy Food Cook-Off and Kids’ Fair hosted by United Church Outreach Ministry and Kids’ Food Basket, Hunger Action Week will present both the problem and an array of practical solutions.

“So many great things are already happening to change the situation in Grand Rapids,” Garcia said. “This is about showing people how they can be a part of the solution.”

More information about Hunger Action Week can be found at Facebook.com/HungerActionWeek and Twitter.com/hunGRyweek.

Hunger Action Week is coordinated by the following members of Kent County’s Food and Nutrition Coalition: Access of West Michigan, Catholic Charities West Michigan, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, Grand Valley State University Women’s Center, Kids’ Food Basket and United Church Outreach Ministry.

 

Events Calendar

All Week:
Post a #paperplateselfie on Facebook or Twitter. Visit Facebook.com/HungerActionWeek to learn more.
Paper Plate Project on display at Access of West Michigan food pantries.

September 16:
“The Weight of the Nation: Challenges” screening and panel discussion. A documentary examining food insecurity and health in the U.S. 7 p.m., Grand Valley State University Pew Campus, Room 136/138E DeVos Center, Grand Rapids, MI.

September 17:
Hunger Simulation. A chance to put yourself in the shoes of someone facing hunger. 7-8:30 p.m., YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, David D. Hunting Branch, 475 Lake Michigan Drive NW, Grand Rapids, MI.

September 18:
Healthy Food Cook-Off and Kids’ Fair. Learn how to make delicious meals on a small budget. 5 p.m., United Church Outreach Ministry, 1311 Chicago Drive SW, Wyoming, MI.

Largest Mobile Pantry in Food Bank history delivered to military families in Iron Mountain

Marine Corps veteran Ed Kippenham receives food and dental supplies at the Sept. 3 distribution in Iron Mountain.

Marine Corps veteran Ed Kippenham receives food and dental supplies at the Sept. 3 distribution in Iron Mountain.

More than 1,000 households received food at the record-breaking Mobile Pantry in Iron Mountain.

More than 1,000 households received food at the record-breaking Mobile Pantry in Iron Mountain.

September 4, 2014 — Iron Mountain, Michigan — On Sept. 3, 2014, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank coordinated its largest Mobile Food Pantry in history at the VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain.

Two semi trucks filled with 40,000 pounds of food were escorted to the site by a dozen bikers with the Michigan Patriot Guard. Sponsored by the Riders and the Escanaba Seventh Day Adventist Church, the food distribution was open to veterans, current service members, and their families.

“It was overwhelming,” said Robin Wycoff, coordinator of the church’s hunger-relief program and a member of the Patriot Guard. Wycoff says over 1,000 households were served.

“There’s a big need up here,” Wycoff said. “This is something we wanted to do to show appreciation for what they’ve done.”

According to a recent study, one quarter of the households Feeding America West Michigan serves are military families, higher than the national average.

That statistic doesn’t surprise Leonard Newlin, who was one of the first to show up. An Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War, Newlin says homelessness among veterans in the area is not uncommon. He worries too about young veterans coming back from war with health problems, both visible and invisible.

Army veterans Elizabeth and Jonathan Alba had to get creative to make ends meet after completing their military service.

Army veterans Elizabeth and Jonathan Alba had to get creative to make ends meet after completing their military service.

“Myself, I struggle with depression, and I see a lot of young guys going up to talk to the counselor,” Newlin said. “I’ve seen a lot of them that have really seen some bad stuff, and it really throws them for a loop.”

Since losing his job as a veneer grader at a local mill several years ago, Newlin says this isn’t the first time he’s needed help getting food. “Right now I’m just at a point where it’s the third [of the month], and I think I’m overdrawn already.”

Some of the veterans in attendance completed their service 50 years ago, others just this year.

Jonathan and Elizabeth Alba, Army veterans from Escanaba, waited two hours to pick up cabbage, watermelon, PopTarts, yogurt and tomatoes. The couple met while serving in the same battalion in Texas and were recently married.

Both discovered that reentering civilian life was harder than advertised. Jonathan, a self-described “door-kicker” with the infantry, teaches mixed martial arts while Elizabeth, trained as a combat medic, found her job prospects unexpectedly limited after sustaining a head injury that causes fainting spells. She learned to read Braille and now transcribes books for visually impaired students.

“I’m lucky to know Braille because I can’t do what I did before,” she said.

Jonathan says they try to live by the principle he instills in his students: “If it means something to you, you’ll make time. If it means nothing, you’ll make an excuse.”

“We’re doing what we can with what we have,” he said.

Demand for the church’s food assistance services isn’t limited to veterans. Thousands in the region struggle to get enough to eat, and Wycoff says the church is currently raising money to expand their food pantry in Escanaba. Feeding America West Michigan has likewise seen an increase in demand, with food distributions to the Upper Peninsula growing 11 percent last year.

Riveridge Produce donates first apples of the season

The Food Bank's Mark Christianson and Melissa Dubridge of Riveridge Produce Marketing sample some Ginger Golds.

The Food Bank’s Mark Christianson and Melissa Dubridge of Riveridge Produce Marketing sample some Ginger Golds.

Volunteers from a Grand Rapids Community College program joined the effort.

Volunteers from a Grand Rapids Community College program joined the effort.

August 28, 2014 — Comstock Park, Michigan — Instead of throwing a party, Riveridge Produce Marketing, a West Michigan apple grower, packer, and sales company, decided to celebrate their 25th anniversary by feeding the hungry. On Wednesday morning, they invited volunteers from Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank to their orchard in Conklin to pick nearly 600 pounds of Ginger Gold apples for local families in need.

The apples were given away at a food distribution at Engedi Church in Holland that afternoon.

Lannie Collard was among the volunteers at the orchard. An instructor at Grand Rapids Community College, she brought a group from her grandparent/grandchild program to help.

“Personally, I feel like the grandparents’ generation understands giving back, but I’m not sure the younger generation does,” Collard said. She believes instilling the value of service is critically important. The fact that the kids got to eat a few apples while they were picking probably didn’t hurt.

Riveridge Produce Marketing was founded in 1989 and now brokers 40 percent of Michigan’s apple sales. While Michigan is typically third in the nation for apple production, behind Washington and New York, the company believes they could edge out New York to take second place this year.

Most of the state’s apples are grown along the Fruit Ridge, a small region northwest of Grand Rapids whose elevation and proximity to the lake regulate temperature and stave off frost. The Fruit Ridge also happens to be very close to Feeding America West Michigan.

“Talking with food banks around the country, not everyone has access to the kind of produce that Riveridge donates. We’re incredibly fortunate to have a partner like this,” said Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle.

The Food Bank has received 214,000 pounds of apples from the company since 2011.

To be a part of future produce gleaning opportunities, create a volunteer profile on our website.