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‘Christmas, Thanksgiving have really come early’: Community fridge installed to combat hunger

Feeding America and Whirlpool create 'Feel Good Fridges' to help economically neglected areas overcome food insecurity
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Posted at 7:03 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 18:27:03-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Just after 10 a.m. on Thursday, Whirlpool’s truck pulled up to LifeQuest Urban Outreach Ministries, parked on Fisk Road SE, opened the back door of the trailer, dropped the ramp and rolled out an early holiday gift for the outreach center.

“For us, Christmas and Thanksgiving have really come early,” said Jerry  Bishop, who's the senior pastor at the ministries. “Whirlpool and Feeding America showed up on our campus, delivered another element of hope and help for us because now we’re going to have a community refrigerator that’ll be stocked monthly with perishable [foods]. Then we're getting nonperishable foods where we can really facilitate, in a greater capacity, our mission to help people.”

The refrigerator is a part of a new project between Feeding America West Michigan and Whirlpool called Feel Good Fridges, and its goal is to tackle hunger in economically neglected areas in the state.

“The 49507 zip code is the most under-invested area of our community, and the food inadequacy and the food hesitancy is enormous,” Pastor Bishop said. “If you want to see that firsthand, you’ll notice a bunch of student athletes go to school hungry [and] come home from school hungry. We’re flooded with people for training all day long, but our outreach is pretty huge. This gives us an opportunity to do some immediate help for hungry people.”

According to Feeding America, one in eight people face hunger in the state of Michigan. For children, it’s one in seven.

“That’s just unacceptable, frankly,” said Molly Kooi, communication and marketing manager at Feeding America West Michigan. “So, partnerships like this really help increase food access and that’s what we’re here to do.”

Feel Good Fridges began a year ago and first put fridges in different locations in Benton Harbor, said Kyle Trewhella, a senior manager at Whirlpool. Now, fridges are located in several cities like Niles, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, and next year Detroit.

Each fridge installed is donated from Whirlpool, he said.

RELATED: GRCC selected for national program that tackles food insecurity

“We have returned units that come back to us and we’re putting them throughout return centers, testing the product, cleaning it, getting it to a better quality overall,” Trewhella said. “Then, we are shipping these to nonprofit agencies, also working with Feeding America on a local and national level to put food in refrigerators and help fight food insecurity.”

Feeding America brought in 450 lbs of food on Thursday, boxes full of cartons of eggs, yogurt, cheese, apples, grapes, frozen meats, potatoes, peppers, and orange juice among others. Trewhella, Kooi and another volunteer stuffed as much as they could inside the fridge like Tetris.

Pastor Bishop said he’s already set up a system for people to access the food. He said he’s grateful they'll be able to offer this service to those who live in the area.

“I’m passionate about meeting people’s needs,” Pastor Bishop said. “I’m more passionate about making sure that nobody goes hungry.” 

RELATED: Several organizations team up to fight food insecurity in Michigan

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