People waiting in line for food giveaway

Thousands of residents across the state are unsure where their next meal will come from. Behind the scenes, agencies and organizations work to fill the gap.

Thousands of residents across the state are unsure where their next meal will come from. Behind the scenes, agencies and organizations work to fill the gap. You can also pitch in to help fight food insecurity in your neighborhood.

“So many of our neighbors during this time of the pandemic are really experiencing hunger for the first time,” said Kara Ross, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

Hunger and hope: Looking into the problem across mid-Michigan

The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan serves 22 counties. Both Ross and Diane Keenan, executive director for East Side Soup Kitchen in Saginaw, can attest food insecurity doesn't discriminate.

“There’s a lot of senior citizens. They’re sharing with me they just don’t have the funds to purchase healthy food,” Keenan said.

Keenan has seen a new trend at her food distributions in Saginaw. People are visiting food drives for the very first time. One man's visit has especially stuck with her.

“He asked me, 'what do I do? I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never had to ask for help before.' He had tears in his eyes,” Keenan said.

For those familiar, factoring in food giveaways into their schedule isn't new.

Faces of hunger

“We come at least once a month,” said Michelle Morford, Bay County resident.

“I try to come about once a week,” said Sue Plessner, Bay County resident.

At the soup kitchen in Saginaw, the kitchen would typically serve 200 to 300 visitors. Since the pandemic, like at other food distribution sites, those numbers have increased.

“On an average day, we may have 600 people," Keenan said.

With more people in need, can food insecurity ever be solved?

“That is ultimately the goal,” Keenan said. "It can be difficult, though, since the dynamic of needs are always changing."

Both Keenan and Ross said volunteers help address those changing needs.

“We really heavily rely on our volunteers,” Keenan said.

“Our partner agencies are out every day in parking lots, serving their neighbors and really trying to ramp up efforts when job loss occurs or when things like the pandemic hit,” Ross added.

Some ideas to consider: host your own food drive in your neighborhood.

“Some people have food drives at their church or organizations they belong to,” Keenan said.

A single dollar also covers more than you think.

“Every dollar is six meals and we rely on that. A $5, $10, $20 donation goes a very long way,” Ross said.

Every dollar helps up front, but behind the scenes, groups like Feeding America and the Food Bank Council of Michigan endlessly work on policy reform and legislation.

“We have many partners working on that daily to make sure we have the resources we need,” Ross said.

The support, donations, and resources does more than you know. It helps these agencies fight hunger daily and helps them offer consistent and equal access to healthy foods.

Copyright 2021 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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