The Rapidian

Community school coordinators ensure Wyoming families have the food they need

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Kids facing hunger are more likely to both struggle in school and experience health challenges. That's why three community school coordinators in Wyoming are fighting hunger through Mobile Food Pantries.
JP, Anna and Sarai work hard to ensure the kids they serve have the food they need to thrive.

JP, Anna and Sarai work hard to ensure the kids they serve have the food they need to thrive.

Underwriting support from:

About Feeding America West Michigan

Serving local families in need since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan reclaims safe surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. That food is distributed through a network of more than 900 food pantries, meal sites, shelters and other hunger-relief agencies in 40 of Michigan’s 83 counties from the Indiana border through the Upper Peninsula. For more information about the food bank, visit FeedWM.org or call 616-784-3250.

Gloria heard about school Mobile Pantries through her daughter Leticia, a student.

Gloria heard about school Mobile Pantries through her daughter Leticia, a student.

A volunteer prepares food for distribution at Parkview Elementary.

A volunteer prepares food for distribution at Parkview Elementary.

JP, Anna and Sarai all have one thing in common: A love for the kids of Wyoming. They each work as community school coordinators at local elementary schools through KSSN (Kent Schools Services Network). During the school year they spend their days soothing empty stomachs with snacks, listening to kids’ concerns and connecting families in need to resources.

On top of it all, each month, the community coordinators take turns hosting Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantries, generously sponsored by Amway and the Wyoming Community Foundation. The food provided is nutritious and fresh – just what growing kids need to focus in school.

“You can tell a student’s behavior is different if they miss breakfast in the morning,” JP said. “Sometimes it just takes us saying ‘do you want some fruit?’ and they feel better.”

Sarai and Anna shared similar experiences.

“A lot of the ones that would end up having to deal with the social worker or behavioral interventionist – a lot of the time, they were just looking for a snack,” Sarai said.

To help, JP keeps snacks in his room to share with hungry kids throughout the day.

Children who lack access to enough nutritious food risk side effects such as poor focus in school and, in extreme cases, stunted growth. In Kent County, 1 in 7 children faced hunger before the pandemic, but now that ratio is projected to be 1 in 5.

“I’ve known families that have struggled with getting food. They’re working up to two to three jobs, but they have to pay rent, they have to pay daycare, they have to pay their bills and it’s hard,” she shared. “Maybe they have 20 or 30 dollars for food – and if they have five or six kids, is that enough for them?”

During the pandemic, the community coordinators began delivering food to families who had lost jobs or faced unexpected expenses. And throughout the summer, they continued to connect with families and run Mobile Pantries. At these distributions, families received boxes filled with fresh produce, dairy and other food they need to thrive.

“It’s been a lot of joy to make sure that they’re okay,” Anna said “When they see us, it’s just letting them know that we still care about them and that we’re still around.”

Growing up, Anna received free breakfast and lunch at school, just as many of the kids she now serves do.

“I feel I’m able to connect with them on a different level,” she said.

One woman who attended the food distributions with her grandchildren during the summer shared that receiving food from Mobile Pantries is how she made ends meet.

“It’s a blessing,” she said. “I couldn’t do it without it.”

Thanks to the Mobile Pantries, JP said, families "can continue to keep paying other bills and saving up money for other things other than just food.”

It’s the work of neighbors like JP, Anna and Sarai and support from generous donors like Amway and the Wyoming Community Foundation that make the food bank’s mission possible. With their help, we believe our community will one day put hunger behind it.

 

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