Approximately one out of five local families is food insecure. According to Feeding America West Michigan, food insecurity means that these families have unreliable access to healthy food and are not certain how they will put together the next day’s meals. Not surprisingly, food-insecure people often skip meals or buy cheaper, less nourishing food because that’s all they can afford. Food insecurity impacts every aspect of their life, from education and health to the cognitive development of their children.
The Pokagon Fund believes that no one in its service area should be deprived of nutritious meals. Over the past eight years, the Fund has provided more than $600,000 to support 25 different organizations that feed students, families and seniors throughout Harbor Country and the other communities surrounding Pokagon Band trust land consolidation sites in Michigan and Indiana. Two grantees, Senior Nutrition Services (SNS) and Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, have been at the forefront of distributing fresh produce, baked goods, dairy products and meals to thousands of seniors, disabled low-income adults and families at the poverty level within Harbor Country and Hartford, Michigan.
SNS has dedicated itself to improving the quality of life of the seniors it serves through its many programs, including Meals on Wheels, Senior Lunch and Company, No Senior Hungry and Holiday Meals. Nutritious food served by SNS in convenient, accessible locations not only promotes health, but also has the added benefit of bringing seniors out of their isolation to meet and socialize with other seniors.
On a broader level, the arrival of Mobile Food Pantries provided by Feeding America West Michigan has become one of the most anticipated events for those in need. Grants awarded by The Pokagon Fund underwrite the shared maintenance and delivery fees of the Food Bank and have supported regular food distributions in New Buffalo, Three Oaks and Chikaming Townships. In 2015, for example, grants by the Fund resulted in the distribution of 100,203 pounds of food locally. The Fund has taken an active role in this effort by alerting residents to the availability of the service via the Fund’s website. The focus in the future will be on finding and improving distribution processes in the area.
In Dowagiac, Michigan two grantees are actively working to address food insecurity. A.C.T.I.O.N Ministries is the primary provider of United States Department of Agriculture Commodities as well as The Emergency Food Assistance Program provisions. Stone’s Throw Soup Kitchen provides nutritious meals for participants in their job training program. A grantee in South Bend, Indiana, St. Margaret’s House, provides over 21,000 meals annually to homeless women and children.
Another major source of concern centers on those students who are eligible for free and reduced lunches while attending school. The Fund would like to explore the possibility of working with school systems to provide whatever supplemental assistance is required to insure that those students are well fed and focused more on their schoolwork than on their next meal.
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