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‘Manna Meals’ helping to attack childhood hunger in Allendale

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jan 08, 2016

ALLENDALE, Mich.,-- Diane Westrick knew children were going to bed hungry in her community and wanted to do something about.

"I think it's just so prevalent all over. No matter what community you're in, you have childhood hunger," said Westrick. "There's a lot of things that we can't do much about, or me as a stay-at-home mom, I didn't feel like I could do big things, but I can feed kids. So I do."

Westrick created Manna Ministries, a group that packs and distributes a sack meal to students from low-income families at Evergreen, Springview and Oakwood Schools in Allendale. Dubbed "Manna Meals", the brown paper bags contain nutritious items like granola bars and a 100 percent juice box.

"We deliver to the schools directly, and then the kids come and pick it up from the driver," explained Westrick. "To me, it's not that big a deal. There's a need, I
do it."

The meals are designed to supplement the breakfast and lunch the kids receive at school, giving them food for the evening once the school day is over.

Westrick relies on the help of dozens of volunteers to deliver, assemble and pack the meals each week. She estimates each meal costs about 80 cents. Each year about $10 to $12 thousand dollars is needed to purchase the food, which Westrick buys in bulk from Feeding America or Sam's Club.

"Everything is donated, products or money, so we try to make it go as far as we can," Westrick told FOX 17 News. "We've never run out... God provides everything we need."

The program began with 16 students in 2006. This year, 121 students are receiving Manna Meals, although Westrick said the number does fluctuate throughout the year.

The meals are provided to each student every day of the school year.

"Just knowing there's kids out there that don't have food that evening, it's a blessing to know that you're giving them something to eat," said Geraldine "Cookie"
VanderLeest, a longtime Manna Ministries volunteer. "It warms your heart when the teachers tell you you're making a difference in the kids' lives. That's the biggest part."

Manna Meals is celebrating its 10th year of operation. The sack meals are packed and assembled at Life Stream Church in Allendale. Donations can be dropped off at the church Monday through Friday, from 9am-4pm.

To learn more about Manna Meals, or to help, contact Diane Westrick at MannaMealsAllendale@gmail.com