The Food For Good challenge launched by Berrien Community Foundation has met its goal to ensure Mobile Food Pantries are fully funded in Berrien County!
Earlier this year, BCF extended a $20,000 community challenge to meet the anticipated funding gap for the Feeding America West Michigan mobile food pantry program. Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantries (FAWM) provide weekly fresh food in neighborhoods throughout Berrien County. This year, because of increased food prices and supply chain issues, the organization anticipated a $40,000 funding gap for their Berrien County mobile food pantry programs.
But that need has been met.
“It really was a community effort to rally around FAWM,” said BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “Gifts ranged from $20 to a thousand or more — Every cent counted, and everyone pitched in.”
The community challenge arose following conversations with local food pantries and FAWM. Over the last couple years, BCF staff noticed a significant rise in For Good Grant requests from area food pantries and Feeding America West Michigan.
“Every organization who works in the space of food insecurity told us the same thing,” said Susan Matheny, BCF program director. “Our local food pantries have at least doubled the number of clients they are seeing regularly. That need is not slowing down; in fact, it keeps rising.”
These conversations led to the BCF team to create the Food For Good Fund. We already had the Feeding Berrien-Terry N. & Maryfran Tieman Endowment Fund that helped us with this initiative. Terry & Maryfran Tieman had the foresight to set up an endowment to help with food needs in the community. We are supplementing that with the Food For Good Fund to help with immediate funding and we will continue to raise dollars to help support the food need in the community through these funds.
In addition to the challenge, grants totaling $36,000 from the Food For Good Fund were awarded to eight traditional food pantries. Berrien Community Foundation will continue to work with food pantries as more need arises.
Donations are still being accepted as BCF continues to address food insecurity in Berrien County. To donate to the Food For Good Fund, checks can be mailed to Berrien Community Foundation, 2900 S. State Street, Ste. 2E, St. Joseph, MI 49085 and reference Food For Good, or online at www.berriencommunity.org/foodforgood.
Food Insecurity in Berrien County
In Berrien County, 14 percent of the population is food insecure. The USDA defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. Traditional fixed site and Mobile Food Pantries help provide access to nutritious food for those in need. However, food banks like Feeding America West Michigan and their partner food pantries and meal programs are facing difficulties meeting the increasing need. Some reasons the need is higher than normal include the termination of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Emergency Allotments and inflation.
Making an already difficult situation more challenging is hunger-relief nonprofits’ difficulty sourcing food to serve neighbors in need. In 2022, commodities Feeding America West Michigan typically receives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) were reduced by over 20%, which meant the food bank had to look elsewhere to acquire food. Last year, to provide for their entire service area, FAWM purchased 1.1 million pounds of food, a 96% increase from 2021, and spent over $1 million on food, a 134% increase from 2021. Hunger-relief organizations across Michigan are facing similar challenges acquiring enough food to meet the need for charitable food assistance.