“Hunger Action Month is about showing people that hunger is a big problem, but that they can do something about it,” said Ken Estelle, president and CEO of Feeding America West Michigan.
One in eight people in Feeding America West Michigan’s 40-county service area in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are food insecure, meaning that they are without reliable access to sufficient, affordable food. Nationally, food insecurity affects more than 42 million people.
Feeding America West Michigan distributes food to a network of roughly 900 food pantries, soup kitchens and community centers throughout West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. During Hunger Action Month, Feeding America West Michigan encourages community members to become involved in one of four ways.
“Our goal is for members of our community take one action in the fight against hunger, whether that’s in the form of volunteering, donating, contacting their elected officials or attending one of our Hops Against Hunger events,” Estelle said.
Volunteers keep Feeding America West Michigan running. Much of the food that is donated to the organization comes in bulk from processors and manufacturers, which means that it frequently needs to be repacked before it can be distributed. The food bank has two volunteer shifts per day at its Comstock Park location.
“Volunteering is a simple, but really effective way for community members to make a difference,” said volunteer coordinator Nate Maroulis. “By taking just a few hours to sort and repack food in our warehouse, they’re preparing meals that will go directly into the hands of their neighbors, sometimes in the same day.”
There are other volunteer opportunities as well, such as “gleaning” events at local farms, where volunteers will be able to harvest fruits and vegetables for people in need.
Each hour volunteered at Feeding America West Michigan provides an average of 200 meals. Opportunities are listed online.
Donations are also welcome and make an immediate, measurable impact on hunger. While Feeding America West Michigan relies on funding year-round, they’re offering an incentive to give during Hunger Action Month. Between Sept. 11 and Oct. 9, gifts made at FeedWM.org will be doubled. Weingartz, a Michigan lawncare equipment company, has offered to match up to $20,000 in contributions.
During the match, each dollar will provide eight meals in the community.
Feeding America West Michigan and other hunger relief organizations are only part of the solution to hunger in our communities. Another element relates to the public sector.
The largest of hunger relief program in the country is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides food assistance to more than 40 million people living near or below the poverty line. The majority are children, the elderly or the disabled.
Feeding America West Michigan is encouraging supporters to contact their representatives and senators to express their support for a strong federal response to hunger.
Simple instructions and messaging can be found on Feeding America West Michigan’s website.
Raise a Glass
Lastly, community members may enjoy the festivities during Hops Against Hunger to support Feeding America West Michigan.
Begun by Feeding America West Michigan in 2016, Hops Against Hunger is a statewide campaign uniting the state’s craft beer community with local food banks. This year’s campaign includes over 20 breweries, restaurants and bars organizing fundraisers for Michigan’s Feeding America-member food banks.
Events are taking place across the state. The roster includes New Holland Brewing Company, Lansing Brewing Company and all six HopCat locations.
Sean Little, the campaign’s organizer, said “The outpouring of support from local breweries and restaurant partners has been incredible. We can’t think of a better way to engage our supporters that over a cold pint of beer.”
More information, including a map of participating breweries and an events calendar, can be found at HopsAgainstHungerMI.org.
A Year-Round Effort
Estelle hopes that people who participate in Hunger Action Month continue to be involved with Feeding America West Michigan and its mission after September. The food bank and its network of local partner agencies rely on donors and volunteers all year long.
“We’ve taken concrete steps toward lessening the burden of food insecurity in our communities, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Estelle said. “It is our hope that, especially in the midst of Hunger Action Month, that our community will rally together in support of their neighbors in need.”
Information about all Hunger Action Month events and calls to action can be found at FeedWM.org/HAM.
About Feeding America West Michigan. Serving local families in need since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan reclaims safe surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. That food is distributed through a network of more than 900 food pantries, youth programs, and other hunger-relief agencies 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 FeedWM.org.