To help meet the increase in need at local food pantries, Berrien Community Foundation announced their Food For Good initiative at a press event today. The announcement came prior to a Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantry at Neighbor to Neighbor in Berrien Springs. The Food For Good initiative is designed to help fill the food gap in Berrien County.
The first action of the initiative directs a total of $36,000 from the Food For Good Fund to eight traditional food pantries throughout Berrien County. “We spoke with many of our local food pantries and heard about the recent increase in need for food,” said Berrien Community Foundation Program Director Susan Matheny. “This initiative is a way to provide help immediately while we work toward further solutions to address food insecurity. We partnered with individual donors, the Frederick S. Upton Foundation and our own endowment funding to direct these dollars immediately.”
In addition to the funding for traditional fixed-site pantries, BCF is extending a $20,000 community challenge to meet the anticipated funding gap for the Feeding America West Michigan mobile food pantries. Feeding America Mobile Food Pantries (FAWM) provide weekly fresh food pantries in neighborhoods throughout Berrien County. This year, because of increased food prices and supply chain issues, the organization anticipates a $40,000 funding gap for their Berrien County mobile food pantry programs.
“This fundraising challenge is critical as difficulties with food sourcing continue and the need for food continues to increase,” said Kenneth Estelle, Feeding America West Michigan’s president and CEO. “We are so grateful for the Berrien Community Foundation’s ongoing support of our work!”
When the community donates $20,000 to the Food For Good Fund, the Berrien Community Foundation will match those funds for Feeding America West Michigan’s Mobile Food Pantry in Berrien County. Any funds raised beyond that amount will be used to aid both traditional fixed pantries and the mobile food pantry program as the need continues to grow. Donations in response to the challenge should be sent to the Berrien Community Foundation, 2900 S. State Street, Ste. 2E, St. Joseph, MI 49085 and reference Food For Good, or through the website 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.
“This is a basic human need,” BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey said. "We need to step up and help our neighbors.”