381,829 meals have been distributed to families in Kalamazoo County by South Michigan Food Bank since the Coronavirus outbreak. The Food Bank and its 285 partners have been dedicated to keeping people healthy and fed throughout South Michigan.
Specifically, Valley Family Church, one of South Michigan Food Bank’s 30 distribution partners in Kalamazoo, understands the dilemma that much of the community is facing: hunger. Normally, Valley Family Church is open once per month, serving 150 families. To support the many individuals and families experiencing lay-offs or not drawing salary in this time, the church has extended their operation to weekly and served over 1,200 families in March!
Each meal distributed represents a person, and each person has a story. There are many wonderful stories coming from food pantries across South Michigan. “There is a gratefulness for the distribution,” said Matt Munson, Executive Pastor of Community Care at Valley Family Church. The common theme from these food distributions is the sincere appreciation from the people receiving food. In particular, one woman said with tears streaming down her face, “Thank you for making a difference.”
To best support food distribution partners and community members in need of food, South Michigan Food Bank has adjusted its distribution model. In early March, with the talk of lay-offs and businesses closing, a dramatic increase in food needs was anticipated. To address this, South Michigan Food Bank staff determined three things:
- People in South Michigan need the Food Bank now more than ever!
- Those in need must have access to food without risking their health. Food Bank staff determined that the greatest risk of exposure occurs when handing food from one person to another. As a result, the Food Bank began packaging fresh produce boxes and emergency food bags to pass out at drive-through distributions. Because of this model, only 15 food distribution partners across all eight counties have closed, and many that had originally closed are reopening. Food Bank employees and volunteers are also taking safety precautions while packing food, including the use of gloves, masks and maintaining appropriate social distancing.
- The Food Bank needs more food! To address the increased demand, South Michigan Food Bank authorized $100,000 in additional food purchases, which will be increasing next week.
South Michigan Food Bank is headquartered in Battle Creek, MI and proudly serves the counties of Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Hillsdale, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lenawee and St. Joseph. To learn more about the Food Bank and how you can help in the effort to eliminate hunger in South Michigan, see how you can get involved.