Feeding Families in 7 Counties for 35 Years
Grace W. is typical of many individuals served by the Greater Lansing Food Bank. She works two part-time jobs, and has two sons, 10 and 12. They help out with odd jobs, but the family just does not have enough income to always know where their next meal will come from.
A co-worker told Grace about a food pantry that provides emergency food supplies to families in need. Thinking of her sons, Grace called United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline to find the nearest Greater Lansing Food Bank affiliated food pantry. They supplied non-perishable food items for six days – just enough to get her through to her next payday.
A Food Network of Pantries and Community Kitchens
Seven counties are served by the Greater Lansing Food Bank – Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Clare, Isabella, Gratiot and Shiawassee counties. Last year, this network provided 6,177,000 meals to individuals at risk for not having enough to eat. Food that Greater Lansing Food Bank delivers includes non-perishable canned goods, fresh produce, boxed meals, frozen proteins and more. Food is also rescued from dining establishments, much of which is safe to eat, but would have otherwise been discarded.
Food drives at schools, churches, service groups and companies bring in a tremendous amount of non-perishable food. For larger organizations, the Food Bank can provide collection barrels and arrange for pick-up as needed.
“Volunteers are essential to our operations,” says Joe Wald, Executive Director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank. “These include ‘gleaners’ who go to orchards and produce centers and collect fresh produce. We have community members come to our warehouse facility and sort both perishable and non-perishable food items, fill food orders for pantries, and work in our coolers sorting perishable items so they can be easily delivered.”
“Our fleet of Food Mover truck drivers collect food from restaurants, commercial kitchens and events that has not been used and would otherwise go to waste. Volunteers deliver food orders to our food pantries. We’re blessed that many service organizations and corporations encourage employees to spend a few volunteer hours helping us feed those in need.”
“Our operation would simply not be possible without the devoted volunteers that see to the collection, sorting and distribution of food.”
The Garden Project Adds Local Flavor to Food Bank Distribution
The Garden Project, which started in 1983, is now part of The Greater Lansing Food Bank’s mission to feed people. The Garden Project provides the community the opportunity to start their own gardens by providing access to over 125 community garden lots. Greater Lansing Food Bank staff members till soil, provide seeds, and ensure access to water. Many of these gardens are located in low-income neighborhoods and are supported with education. Many first time gardeners learn how often to water plants and how to tell when produce is ripe and ready for picking.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” adds Wald, “to watch a young person pick a tomato they’ve grown and eat it right from the vine.”
Hill Center Food Production
Financial gifts were made from The Capital Region Community Foundation, The Power of We, and 100 Women Who Care which allowed the South Lansing Community Development District Association, the Lansing School District and Sodexo-Magic to repair and expand garden production at Hill Vocational Center.
Needed repairs to the 30’ by 60’ greenhouse enabled the Garden Project to grow more plant starts for Garden Project gardeners. A hoop house was re-fitted to grow food for a nearby community kitchen. An acre-size garden in a secure, fenced area was created for those living in nearby subsidized apartments.
Adds Wald: “When residents are invested in growing their own food, it’s like providing a ‘hand-up’, rather than a ‘hand-out.’”
Annual Food Fundraisers
An anticipated October fundraiser is Empty Bowls, made possible with ceramic soup bowls donated from the Greater Lansing Potters Guild, Clayworks and other local kiln artisans. Troppo and AT&T hosted the 2016 event, held between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. A donation of $20 allows supporters to pick a bowl, and enjoy soup, bread and water. “Many who attend are regulars,” says Wald, “who love to add to their collection of soup bowls.”
The 10th annual Empty Plate event in May at the Kellogg Center raised nearly $500,000, and all attending left with the commemorative plate decorated by Lansing schoolchildren.
Providing a boost to Food Bank’s food supplies each May is the National Association of Letter Carriers food drive, which brought in more than 141,000 pounds of food that was distributed almost as soon as it was collected.
“Our ability” adds Wald, “to provide a steady supply of food to our pantries year-round are because of support from our community partners, continuing food drives and special events that remind our supporters that no one should worry about when they will have their next meal or where it is coming from.”
Getting involved with The Greater Lansing Food Bank is as easy as calling (517) 853-7800 or by e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org