LANSING — As a growing number of residents turn to food banks during the COVID-19 crisis, state and business sectors are working together to ensure that no family goes hungry.
The Food Bank Council of Michigan has collaborated with the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and Meijer to deliver emergency food items to each of Michigan’s seven regional food banks, including the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. The collaborative project directly responds to a massive need being placed on the state’s food banks and is serving as a model for other states.
“School closures, unemployment and rising poverty related to the pandemic are disproportionally impacting people already at risk of hunger,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Working together, the State of Michigan and our partners in the nonprofit and business sectors can help families and seniors put food on the table during these difficult times.”
Through a memorandum of understanding, Meijer initially sourced $1.6 million in food products with delivery to Michigan food banks beginning last week. Food items provided in the program include canned vegetables and fruit, pasta, hot and cold cereal, and protein products such as canned salmon, peanut butter and canned beans.
Delivery of a $2 million second round started as early as May 1.
Kara Ross, president of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, said that her facility has received its first shipment of emergency food and is anticipating another delivery next week.
“The food is coming at a vital time,” she said. “In the last six weeks, the need in our service area has doubled. We’ve distributed 2.6 million pounds more than what we distributed last year at this time.”
To compensate for the increased demand, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan has been supporting 50 mobile food distributions per week to its 22-county service area. National Guard members have also built 20-pound boxes for the food bank to store products coming from the state’s emergency distribution.
“I think we will have a heightened response for months to come,” Ross said. “As people get back to work, we’ll move from crisis to recovery mode.”
Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council, credited the SEOC, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Attorney General’s office and state Department of Technology, Management and Budget for activating the program in just over a week.
“This amazing partnership means less Michiganders will go without food during this already incredibly stressful time,” said Knight. “The need is massive, but the unwavering commitment to create food security remains steadfast.”
In Michigan, the food bank network’s distribution volume has jumped 41 percent since early March. Projections show that even a 1. 1 percent in unemployment and 1.5 percent increase in the poverty rate will raise Michigan’s food insecurity rate from 13.6 to 14.6 percent, increasing the number of food insecure Michiganders by 100,000.
Residents can view the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s distribution routes and times by visiting fbem.org. For more information on the Food Bank Council of Michigan’s response to COVID-19, visit www.fbcmich.org/covid-19/.