Nearly 1,200 local organizations use the Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank to provide food to an estimated 492,100 people every year. Photo by Mike Nichols
(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Three semi-trucks, worth $26,000 each, are now the workhorses for Feeding America West Michigan, an early Christmas present from Meijer Inc.
They came just in time.
“These trucks are replacing some retired vehicles,” said FAWM CEO Ken Estelle. “Our older vehicles were reaching end of service life, and these trucks came in at just the right time.”
At any given point, the nonprofit food bank has about 2 million pounds of food in its main warehouse at 864 West River Center Drive, Comstock Park. The trucks deliver food to mini-farmers markets, often in schools and churches, with religious groups making up about three-quarters of the drop points.
Feeding America West Michigan services 40 counties in West Michigan, Estelle said.
Unfortunately, the food bank business is growing in the region, he said, due to a decrease in government services.
“We’ve seen it grow 10 percent since last year. It’s troublesome because you’d think we’d be seeing the top of the mountain, but we’re not,” he said.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t continue, but it looks like government assistance is certainly not increasing, and as it does decrease, we’re seeing more people come into the charity food networks for help. We expect it to grow as the government programs reduce their assistance.”
Surprisingly, the kind of people FAWM is serving aren’t the homeless or the out-of-work but working people whose paychecks aren’t enough to put food on the table, Estelle said. Even with the local economy making a sustainable rebound, there are still a lot of people who need help, he said.
“The people we’re serving are still seeing more and more need, and a lot of the people who come to our pantries are working poor,” he said. “A lot of the folks who come to our pantries that provide food are working, but they just don’t have enough money to make ends meet.”
This is where Meijer, a long-time supporter and “great partner,” comes in to play, Estelle said.
The recent semi-truck donation is just one more step in the Grand Rapids-based superstore’s increasing role as one of the top donors to Feeding America West Michigan, added Tim Johnson, FAWM logistics manager.
“In the past, Meijer has donated a lot of their older Sterlings. We were very fortunate to get the Volvos, which is, I believe, a step up from what we have,” he said. “These trucks are used to go to Meijer and pick up the food that Meijer donates. They are in use, and we do use them to deliver to our branches like Cadillac and Harbor Springs.”
Meijer Co-Chairman Doug Meijer said his company is a natural choice for food bank assistance. Not only do Meijer stores carry the food vital to Feeding America West Michigan, but the company also wants to develop a culture that channels generosity into education and feeding the hungry, he said.
Feeding America West Michiganis a “perfect fit” for Meijer, he said.
“We’ve had a culture of … giving back to community,” Meijer said. “When we have 60,000-plus team members and employees working in the community, living in the community, making people aware the issues are there and providing food — that is what carries out the mission, and we’re fortunate to support it.”