The Greater Lansing Food Bank is here to feed anyone in need. We do not ask why, but many want to tell us. And in 2020, many have told us this is the first time in their lives they have had to ask for food.
For the last 39 years the food bank has been raising money and distributing emergency food to those at risk of going hungry, but this year’s pandemic and the resulting economic hardships significantly shifted how we responded to our residents in need.
Thirty percent more people found themselves in need of food compared to the prior year. Additionally, food prices rose 30 percent due to increased demand and shipping costs. We also saw some of our community pantries temporarily close their doors making it more difficult to reach people in those neighborhoods.
But the Greater Lansing Food Bank responded by becoming nimbler and more resourceful. We also benefited greatly from the donations that poured in from long-time and first-time donors who cared.
We placed more emphasis on providing food to senior citizens so this vulnerable population could stay safely at home and still get the food they needed. By partnering with other local providers of senior resources, we maximized our services and avoided duplication.
We also expanded healthcare partnerships to tackle the issue of proper nutrition for chronically ill patients, who might not have been able to afford the foods necessary to help them manage a health condition, which are often more expensive. We created to-go food packages that can be sent home with patients found to be food insecure.
And the food bank also reached into more rural communities to ensure the flow of food was maintained during times when grocery store shelves became bare and many people lost their jobs. We increased our mobile food drop offs and started fresh produce and dairy pop-ups.
It was not easy to shift the way we had always done our work, but it was necessary, and our organization rose to the occasion! The food distribution changes began immediately in March and continue to this day. Ironically, this was all happening against the backdrop of our “Building Hope” project and capital campaign, a strategic initiative launched in 2019 to end hunger in mid-Michigan by 2025, by increasing the capacity and space to store and distribute food.
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When the food bank’s board put in play the vision of Building Hope two years ago, we could never have imagined a global disaster nor predicted that our communities would be facing such a dramatic increase in food insecurity in a single year. But it was that Building Hope vision that allowed GLFB to quickly respond to the dramatically changing needs of our communities. We continue to respond and fine tune our responses.
What’s needed most now is to “feed hope” for the future! To continue funding these types of programs, to increase our food purchasing ability, to ensure we have the space and capacity to store our food inventory, to make sure we have the distribution capabilities to reach hungry people in all seven of the counties we serve, and to maintain our goal of providing nutritional food that is served with dignity regardless of the reason recipients need our services.
Please be generous this year to help those around us who have never before needed to ask for help acquiring food. I urge you to give today, and I thank you for caring.
Leslie A. Brogan is the board chair of the Greater Lansing Food Bank.
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