Archive for September, 2010

Non-profit Spotlight: Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank

September 24, 2010

Consider these statistics: 

  • Nearly 1 of every 6 Americans does not have enough to eat.
  • Almost half of all the food the United States produces or imports for consumption every year is wasted.
  • Roughly 18% of that discarded food is recoverable.
  • It would only take a little more than 1/3 of that recovered food to end hunger in the United States.
  • Unfortunately only 21% of what is needed, less than 8% of what is available is actually recovered. 
  • An estimated $4 billion annually would cover the cost to save and distribute enough food to end hunger in the United States.
  • It current costs the United States 22.5 times that amount in healthcare, crime and lost productivity related costs as a result of ignoring the epidemic of hunger in our nation.

While these figures are staggering something is being done.  Even better news is that progress is being made by one very unique organization – Feeding America.  Since 1981 the West Michigan chapter has helped their community at large as a non-profit clearinghouse for saved, donated food that is distributed to area churches and charity agencies to help people in need.  Their goal has always been to end hunger in West Michigan.  For them, ending hunger means making sure that people who need food assistance can not only get it, but can get enough for what they need. 

In mid-1990, Feeding America West Michigan was able to determine just how much “enough” was.  For their 40-county service area, (which stretches from the Michigan-Indiana boarder to the Upper Peninsula) they needed to provide their agency food banks with 55 million pounds of food every year.  The problem was that at the time they determined what the actual need was, they were only handling 5 million pounds a year.  Compounding the challenge was a need for more agencies to help distribute the food at the point of need.  Most food pantries could only handle about 45,000 pounds per year and Feeding America West Michigan was only serving about 300 of them.  In order to help end hunger with 55 million pounds of food, they needed almost 1,300 agencies.

Over the next 7 years, Feeding America West Michigan launched a huge-scale project to recruit and develop 1,100 – 1,300 agencies located within the 40 county service area so that any person in need had access to food at an agency located no more than 10 miles (for rural areas) or 10 blocks (in urban areas) away.  They understood that many times the causes of hunger are not always within our control.  However being a source of help when needed was definitely something they could.  When a person or family has enough food to eat they are less likely to be sick, become homeless, commit crimes of despiration or lash out in anger, fear or frustration.  A simple gift of food is often a catalyst to breaking a cycle of need. 

This is by no means an independent venture.  Without help from volunteers and supporters Feeding America West Michigan would not be what it is or be able to help in all the ways that they do.  Through their 7 warehouses, they serve 1,300+ food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, domestic violence shelters, rescue missions, and other charity agencies across the western third of the Lower Peninsula and entire Upper Peninsula.  In 2009, they distributed over 24.5 million pounds of food and other goods.

You can definitely be a part of ending hunger in not only West Michigan, but also the entire United States.  However, please consider this:  if you would like to give a gift of support a monetary donation goes so much farther than a donation of food.  When you or I buy food at the store we are only able to receive $1 of food for every $1 spent.  With a gift of money, your $1 can be turned into as many as 7 complete meals worth of food.  Plus your monetary donation can be considered a tax deduction  while a bag of groceries cannot.  (Consult your tax advisor for specific details.)  Of course a donation of your time has tremendous value too.

If you would like to get involved, visit the Feeding America West Michigan website to find a location near you.  To Find a Feeding America Food Bank in other states, visit the national website.  Feeding America West Michigan will continue to be a regional nonprofit clearinghouse for saved, donated food to assist needy people, with an ongoing mission to end hunger in West Michigan.

Laura Compton

September 8, 2010

So many times people think “it’s just me…I won’t make a difference”.  Whether it’s helping a charity, a stranger or sticking up for what you think is right, one’s voice or action can make a difference.

In my neighborhood, we have a water problem.  Everyone liked to complain about it, but no one wanted to take the bull by the horns and do something about it.  They all felt that they would not get anywhere with the government bodies.  Since my property was affected the most, I couldn’t stand by and not do something.  My father always said, “If you don’t like something, then do something about it; otherwise you have no right to complain”.

So I went to countless Township meetings, took pictures, got other government agencies involved, walked the neighborhood and got signatures for a petition.  A plan is in place to install a drain in our neighborhood to alleviate the water.  It has been a long process, and my work isn’t done yet until that drain is installed.  I was one voice for the neighborhood and accomplished what others didn’t think was possible.

The same holds true in every day life.  Your actions don’t have to be large…many times it’s the small gestures that have the most impact.  The elderly lady who is a dollar or two short to pay for her groceries; the single mom down the street who could use a couple of hours for herself but can’t afford a babysitter; the lonely neighbor whose family is all gone or moved away…give the dollar or two or more so the elderly lady can eat; offer to watch the single mom’s kids so she can have a break; visit the lonely neighbor and brighten up their day.  There are so many ways to help people, whether it’s supporting a charity or just helping a neighbor.  You may not feel that these simple gestures will do much, but you would be surprised to know how much it meant to the person receiving it. 

Give of yourself and in return, life will give back to you.

Forget Football in America! We’re Talking Football in the Office!!

September 1, 2010

It barely reaches 14 inches tall yet its stature is staggering.  It weighs in at less than a pound yet the power it yields is overwhelming.  The prestige of it is so great that it is kept heavily guarded in a top-secret vault somewhere in northern Kent County, Michigan.  What is it?  This can only be none other than the World Famous Traveling Trophy.

A moment of silent respect please ….

Every year at this time our employees enter into the fiercest of competitive events: the Pigskin Pick-Em’s.  Each week participating employees select which football teams they have determined will win their respective match ups.  Each week, when the results are revealed, one victorious person within our company receives the dubious honor of displaying this icon of power and posterity upon their desk for all to gaze upon.  The respect this trophy beholds is so great that no one dare touch it unless they have already been bestowed with the honor of winning any week’s picks.

Now before you think we have all totally lost it, let me assure that we are not a complete bunch of nuts.  We are just a little competitive during this season where bragging rights give us great personal satisfaction and cheap entertainment.  Hey we don’t get out much; we’re handling your home loans with the utmost focus.

But admit it.  You want to play now too don’t you? 

Unfortunately this game is just for us employees, but we are developing one you can play!  Each week you can visit our website and select your winning picks and we will post the winning player on our Facebook page.  Of course after the above description of our antics this seems a little lackluster.  That just won’t do.

So let us introduce the AHF Charity Gridiron Challenge!!  This will soon be up on our website for your enjoyment, bragging rights and competitive urges.  Each week you will play for a $50 gift card to a national chain restaurant.  But wait, there is more!  You will also be playing for your favorite non-profit, 501c3 verifiable charity.  (Sorry our legal department insisted that part be added.) When you win, your charity does too with a $100 check!  But that’s not all!

After 17 weeks of nail-biting, hair-raising intensity the charity that has ‘won’ the most weeks will also win an additional $2500!!  Now here is where the real fun begins.  Your involvement in getting others to play is critical because in the event of a tie between charities, the organization with the most number of supporters playing will be the winner.  Whoa! 

The game will be up and running on our website by September 7 along with complete rules and game details.  Act now, operators are standing by! 

Not really, but we do hope you have as much fun as we do.  Game on!!