Non-profit Spotlight: Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank

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.

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