The Rapidian Home

I saw a sign: My journey from food bank client to food bank advocate

When I was in need, I was a mobile food pantry user. Now I'm interning at the organization that fed me.

/Molly Kooi

Molly Kooi

Molly Kooi

In my son’s first year of life, I didn’t have enough food to feed us. It was just me and I was doing the best that I could. At 20 years old, without a degree and very little experience it was hard to survive on my own.

I had really only worked retail at the time and was making next to nothing. I was doing everything I could do to make ends meet. However, my rent alone was more than I was making at my job. The food stamps had run out and I was starting to panic.

One day, en route to my house, thinking about the nearly empty pantry and refrigerator awaiting me, I saw a sign on the side of the road. It read “FOOD TRUCK.”

The rain was pouring down, but I didn’t care. We needed the food. I quickly turned my car around and raced back to where the sign led me. I had arrived at Standale Reformed Church. I drove around to the back of the building and saw a lineup of people outside a very large shed and inside there were people passing out food. To the right there was a giant truck and on the side it read “Feeding America West Michigan.”

A lot of people in line didn’t have umbrellas. I grabbed mine and ran to join the others. I invited two young women to stand under my umbrella with me. The three of us shuffled together under my tiny umbrella until we got to the front of the line.

They asked me to sign in, and I did without question. Then I followed the person ahead of me around the tables they had set up. My bags began to fill with fresh produce, potatoes, bread, baked goods, milk, yogurt — almost anything you can imagine. I was absolutely awestruck by the kind-hearted people handing me everything we needed and overwhelmed by the amount of food that was offered. It was enough to last us quite a while.

I lugged the bags of food back to my car while they filled up with rain water because I could no longer hold my umbrella. Finally, after two trips it was all packed into my vehicle. Closing the car door behind me I wiped the water off of my glasses and gazed out of the foggy windshield. I was filled with a sense of joy and gratitude. I watched the remaining people clean up what was left and slowly pulled out of the parking lot. In my rear-view mirror I read the words on that truck once again: “Feeding America West Michigan.”

Fast forward to a few months ago, and I’m working on my bachelor’s degree in health communication at Grand Valley State University. Many organizations helped get me here, and I will never forget any of them. On this particular day I was walking through Padnos Hall of Science and noticed that there was a volunteer/internship fair going on.

I needed an internship for my degree, so I decided walk around and look at the tables. Going from one to the next, I saw many organizations I recognized, many that had helped me personally: Alpha Woman’s Center, Family Futures, Catholic Charities. I smiled back at all these friendly faces who had gotten me where I am today. One of the last signs I saw was, you guessed it, Feeding America West Michigan.

I went up to the table and learned that that they had internships available. Overjoyed to be seeing them again, I was smiling from ear to ear! This was my chance to give back. I polished my resume, and sent it in. When they offered a position to me, an internship writing stories for their website, I was even more ecstatic. I actually jumped up and down in happiness.

Here I am today, writing the stories of others like me. People doing their best in this life, who just need a little help to get them up whatever mountain it is they’re climbing.  I genuinely think I couldn’t be doing more rewarding work. Meeting all of these people with their own individual stories that are so captivating is an absolute gift. I’m so thrilled to be able to give back to the organization that helped me when I needed it. Thank you, Feeding America.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.