Michigan National Guard arrives to help out at Food Bank of Eastern Michigan



National Guard members work alongside staff and volunteers at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Photo courtesy the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan

National Guard members work alongside staff and volunteers at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Photo courtesy the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan

FLINT — About 10 Michigan National Guard members will be helping at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, sorting food and building boxes.

Kara Ross, director of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, said the National Guard arrived Monday to help at the 2300 Lapeer Rd. facility as part of orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to aid Food Banks in four communities across the state, including Ann Arbor, Comstock Park, Flint, and Pontiac.

Ross said the FBEM is dealing with about double the normal amount of aid it delivers to local communities, while dealing with less volunteers to help out.

“We definitely count on volunteers, but right now that’s just not possible,” she said., explaining that many volunteers have been sent home during the shelter-in-place order. “We normally have about 50 volunteers, that’s been reduced to about 10 – but now we’re working with National Guard.”

Ross said the FBEM is also feeling a bit of a pinch as the increased need for food has meant less food items coming from area stores because they need everything they must keep shelves stocked.

“We serve across 22 counties, so with more people out of work and kids out of school it’s almost doubled our mobile distribution,” she said. “Some is donated by Feeding America, some from retailers, but donations from stores have decreased so we are buying a lot more food than we have in the past.”

Ross said the food bank is accepting donations online and they are trying to spread the word to people that every $1 donated is 6 meals, so $10 can feed 60 people.

According to the Food Bank Council approximately 10 Michigan National Guard members will be serving at each site.

Support to the Food Banks is scheduled to continue through mid-April.

“The aid that men and women of the Michigan National Guard will provide to Food Banks across Michigan is further proof that the Michigan National Guard is a true cornerstone of Michigan communities,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “I could not be more proud of their service, commitment, and determination, and they are making a difference in the state’s response to COVID-19.”

The food distribution sites requested Michigan National Guard personnel to assist with mobile food distribution, which serves between 300- 600 Michigan families daily. Guard members will direct traffic for the drive-through distribution site and assist with packing bags of fruit and handing bags to cars. The guard members will perform their duties with personnel protective equipment to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including gloves and hand sanitizer.

“The National Guard’s humanitarian effort is filling a gap so that our food banks can continue to provide healthy food to hungry Michiganders. While our member food banks are accustomed to working in a crisis environment, we have never witnessed anything like COVID-19 and the dramatically escalating numbers of children, families and seniors needing food.” Dr. Phil Knight, executive director, Food Bank Council of Michigan

Ross said there is a calendar of mobile distributions and closures on the FBEM website at www.fbem.org/programs/mobilepantry distributions/.