GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kids' Food Basket has been serving the community for over almost two decades, tackling the issue of food insecurity for families around West Michigan.
It's a problem that continues to grow and an organization that continues to adapt to meet the need, especially over this past year.
Every year FOX 17 partners with Kids' Food Basket during the month of March and to raise awareness ahead of "Go Orange Day".
This week, we're taking you to the Kids' Food Basket farm to see how that is helping in the fight.
"Our mission is to nourish kids to be their best in school and in life and we are wildly aware as the rest of our community is that COVID-19 has been incredibly disruptive to the school experience," said Afton DeVos, Chief Operating Officer at Kids' Food Basket.
"Over the last 12 months, we have pivoted our model to include six different offerings of community food provision, including our flagship sack supper model, as well as some weekend programming. in addition, we've provided family food boxes because now more than ever, the need is obvious," she said.
1 in 7 Michiganders struggle with hunger, according to Feeding America.
"So many of our families that were already under resourced are struggling even more than they were prior to the pandemic and then there are families that are struggling for the first time. and so what we see is a community that's raising up to meet the needs of our neighbors
during the pandemic they have served more than a million emergency meals to children and families," DeVos said.
"One of the challenges as an organization that we've encountered throughout this pandemic is not unlike other businesses, food procurement continues to be an issue in the supply chain continues to be an issue throughout our country and so we've had the incredible gift of this beautiful greenhouse in Kent County, which has allowed us to grow and harvest fresh produce year round."
Though winter consumed the 10 acres of the farm, through their hydroponic system they have still been able to grow fresh, local, healthy foods for the families they serve which is an important part of their mission.
This fiscal year alone they have been able to provide more than 147,000 servings of produce to the community.
"One of the things that's really special about our work is that we are a food solidarity model. that means that healthy food is at the center of everything we do, that community choice drives our choices for our community, and that we listen to what the community's needs are
at Kids' Food Basket they are currently serving 52 schools there are 30 on the waiting list and just recently they were able to offer more services in Muskegon," DeVos said.
Rodney Savage, who is now on the board of directors at kids food basket has seen first hand, over the years, the need in Muskegon.
Savage says his church got a phone call about helping provide food for the Muskegon County community and wanted to help.
He came up with Kids' Food Basket's new food box program where they will be backing 350 40 pound boxes to deliver to a local church for distribution.
"Before COVID-19 Kids' Food Basket was serving 1,300 kids in six schools in Muskegon every weekday that was huge so COVID brought a stop to that," Savage said.
"What I love about Kids' Food Basket and they didn't let that stop them they pivoted, and they met people right where they work in the schools or in their homes," he said.
A year unlike any other, of adapting, of learning, of communities realizing just how big the needs are.
"Often times we see on the TV food lines and people that are struggling but this was in the distance but now we're dealing with our neighbors, we're dealing with people we know, people that we talk to everyday. now we're the people that need help and so go orange, everyone can get involved, by going orange for their neighbors to help bring awareness to childhood hunger," he said.
"This is a conversation our community needs to keep having this year is different, these are realities that many of our families have faced year after year but COVID-19 has exacerbated those realities and it's brought the need proximate to us, now is a perfect time to have this conversation about why these needs exist, and what we as a community can do about it.
You can take part in the drive-thru event for Go Orange Day on March 31 from 12-5 p.m. at all three locations:
1300 Plymouth Avenue NE in Grand Rapids
1011 2nd Street in Muskegon
652 Hastings Avenue in Holland
You can drop off the below items for their sack suppers:
*Fruit Cups or pouches
*8lb or XL brown lunch bags