Reflections on 2021 from our CEO, Peter Vogel
The holiday season is a time that allows us to slow down and reflect more on our neighbors, our challenges, and our role in helping our neighbors transform those challenges into successes. As we head into this season here at the Food Bank, I’ve been reflecting on this past year and seeing that the one thing that’s been different these past two Decembers is the impact of COVID.
This pandemic has illustrated two things for us really clearly:
- Hunger isn’t seasonal
- But no matter the season, our community comes together
At the Food Bank, we have a significant number of people who want to help their neighbors by giving time and funds; we have 335 partner agencies who run our distributions, like pantries and Fresh Food Distributions; we have a small staff so that we can use our resources to put as much food as we possibly can into the community. This year, all of these groups of people are coming together to distribute nearly 14 million pounds of food throughout our eight counties — each month, we have handed out over 1 million pounds of food to families all over South Michigan. Regardless of holidays and seasons, the increased need created by the pandemic and our community’s commitment to meeting that need is consistent.
When I think about all of the people our community has helped, I remember one client George, who I started developing a relationship with about a year ago. He was married, had two younger children, and he and his wife both worked in the service industry — until COVID hit. His wife lost her job, and his hours were scaled back dramatically. When they didn’t have the financial resources to continue living in South Michigan, George’s wife and kids moved out of state to her parents’ home. George stayed and took on three part-time jobs to support himself and send money to his family. But because he couldn’t keep up with paying rent and utilities while supporting his family, he became homeless, though he kept working all three of his jobs. He asked me,
“How do I get out of this spiral? I’m having a harder time getting a better job and providing for myself because I don’t have a home. But, I need to send money back to my family to take care of them. I don’t know how to get out of the situation that I’m in.”
For George, and for all of our clients, food isn’t seasonal. Hunger is year-round. But, because George connected with the Food Bank, food also isn’t a choice — he doesn’t have to make the impossible decision between feeding himself and supporting his family. Receiving this food means that George has saved the resources he would usually allocate to groceries, getting back on his feet, and successfully supporting his family. And that’s all thanks to our supporters and partners who gather around our work and help uplift our neighbors, like George, to build bright futures.
This season, I’m inviting you all to join us in appreciation for our community. This year, the COVID pandemic has reminded us just how quickly life can change, with many of those who need our help never having needed us before — and together, we’re making sure they’re not alone.