On-the-go service stops hunger in tracks

Arlene, 77, lives a happy, active life, surrounded by loved ones, in Cassopolis. Her large family is close-knit and near-by. She and her friends spend most of their time at the Chain Lake Baptist Church, a 180-year-old historic church that was part of the Underground Railroad. The gospel choir, of which Arlene is president, performs at other churches in the area, and so she is well-known throughout the community.

But Arlene is one of many struggling with food insecurity in Cass County.

Seniors are especially vulnerable to food insecurity—even a former professional like Arlene, who studied nursing at the University of Chicago and worked in a VA hospital. In the service area of Feeding America West Michigan, a United Way-funded program, about 46,800 seniors are food insecure. Like many other seniors, Social Security is Arlene’s sole source of income. Although Arlene receives support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, she is grateful for the resources within her community that help further improve her access to food.

For the last 30 years, an organization called Helping Hands has been providing support for community members in need and served about 1,100 people last year. Arlene, like many other seniors in the area, depends on its senior commodities program, which provides household essentials, toiletries, and food staples. Helping Hands has a fixed pantry that community members can use once a month as a supplement to bridge the gap when money is limited.

Helping Hands also partners with Feeding America West Michigan, to provide a monthly mobile food pantry for the community. “It takes care of me,” Arlene says.

“We have a lot of seniors that come to this [mobile food pantry],” says Mary Tompi, Helping Hands Director. “I’m not going to let anyone go hungry.”

Learn more about the work United Way of Southwest Michigan is doing in Basic Needs, visit uwsm.org/basic-needs.

Hundreds of farmers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers in West Michigan have edible food they can’t sell because of overruns, order errors, misprints, and other unexpected occurrences. Feeding America West Michigan distributes that reclaimed food to pantries, shelters, after-school programs, and more than 900 other agencies, providing food to nearly half a million people.

Hundreds of farmers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers in West Michigan have edible food they can’t sell because of overruns, order errors, misprints, and other unexpected occurrences. Feeding America West Michigan distributes that reclaimed food to pantries, shelters, after-school programs, and more than 900 other agencies, providing food to nearly half a million people.