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‘At the end of the day, you’re helping somebody’: Feeding America hiring drivers to meet growing demand for food

Feeding America says hunger and food insecurity has grown during the pandemic. Over 100,000 children in West Michigan worry about food.
Posted at 5:54 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 19:47:25-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kenneth Cavanary loves being a truck driver. He’s been doing it since 2007, earning his commercial driver’s license in Missouri. However, it wasn’t until he started driving for Feeding America six years ago that he began loving it.

“The best thing about driving a truck for Feeding America is knowing at the end of the day you’re helping somebody who may not have the means to have food on their table and be able to feed their family,” Cavanary said during an interview with FOX 17 on Thursday evening.

Cavanary’s latest delivery was to Feeding America’s Mobile Food Pantry at St. John Vianney on Clyde Park Avenue in Wyoming on Thursday. He delivered thousands of pounds of food including apples, bell peppers, potatoes and other goods.

“We are incredibly grateful for the driver that chooses to drive for us,” said President and CEO Ken Estelle during an interview at the pantry. “They do a wonderful job. Their heart and soul are into the work that they’re doing.”

However, these days they’re short a few drivers, Estelle said. They currently have 12 drivers, but they need three more who are wiling to make long hauls.

“We do a lot of mobile distribution,” Estelle said. “Also, our drivers pick up food from over 300 different food donors in the area. They get into our warehouses, and then we have to transport that out of our warehouses as well.”

Estelle said hunger and food insecurity has grown since the pandemic began in March 2020. Attendance at their mobile food pantries grew by 64 percent last year alone. They’re seeing the growing need for food in all 40 counties they cover in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

“Before COVID happened, about 1 in 8 people in our area were worried about food, and right now it’s still 1 in 6,” Estelle said. “We think there’s probably over 100,000 children in our service area alone that are worried about food, and over 400,000 people. It’s a big number.”

He believes hunger and food insecurity will continue to be a problem for most of the year. So, he’s looking to hire drivers as soon as possible.

“Obviously, first requirement is you need to have a commercial driver's license and a Class-A drivers license and the current medical card,” Estelle said. “But, you also--what’s even as important as that is we really want people who have a heart for our mission.”

Estelle added that most drivers work locally and are home most nights for dinner. But, it’s the mission to help others is what they’re looking for most in an applicant.

Helping others is why Cavanary loves his job so much, he said.

“It's a good place to work,” Cavanary said. “It’s nice to come into work every morning and see smiling faces and enjoy the people you work with.”

Additional information:

  • Many truck drivers are in their second careers or ending their long and tiring career driving trucks across the country.
  • At the food bank, most of our truck drivers sleep in their own beds 85 percent of the time.
  • We need truck drivers with CDL-As willing to spend 1–4 nights in the Upper Peninsula each week as well.

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