The problem of hunger, or food insecurity, might feel far removed based on your circumstances.
For many, however, the struggle is ongoing, an everyday reality that affects children, seniors, disabled individuals, and the un- and underemployed.
The Greater Lansing Food Bank works to meet the needs of tens of thousands of people facing food insecurity in mid-Michigan. The organization distributed 7.4 million pounds of food in 2015 to people living in Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Shiawassee, Clare, Isabella and Gratiot counties.
One in four mid-Michigan children will go to bed hungry tonight, according to a 2009 Feeding America Hunger Study. Kathy Johnson is the head librarian at the downtown branch of Capital Area District Libraries and serves as the volunteer coordinator for the annual Downtown Lansing Food Fight. The food drive competition pits downtown businesses against each other to benefit the food bank and is spearheaded by Downtown Lansing, Inc.
Johnson said she sees the problem of hunger in some of her young library patrons. Families will stay and enjoy the library during the day, but often don’t venture out at lunchtime, leading to anxious and fussy youngsters.
“There is a lot of poverty in this area,” she explained.
For those with low-paying jobs, sometimes a paycheck just isn’t enough to cover all of a household’s basic needs. Many food bank clients report having to choose between paying for food or medicine or medical care. Even more face a similar choice between paying for food or basic utilities.
Sixteen businesses participated in this year’s “food fight”, raising $4,525 in monetary donations and more than 5,200 pounds of food. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network employees earned the “heavyweight award” for the third year in a row collecting the most pounds of food, with a 2,449-pound donation. The total donation from this year’s event will provide nearly 40,000 meals to those in need in metro-Lansing this holiday season.
Amy Castanon is president of the Amalgamated United Auto Workers Local 2256/Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Unit and statewide recording secretary.
“UAW Local 2256 BCBSM Unit has supported the food drives for many years to support the Greater Lansing Food Bank in partnership with BCBSM,” she said. “We are proud to be a part of it knowing how it has helped so many families at this critical time.”
“Hunger in our community is an urgent and growing need,” said Qunita Williamson, director of State Accounts & Specialty Servicing for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “Our commitment to the Greater Lansing Food Bank in partnership with BCBSM is stronger than ever, as we continue to fight to solve this heartbreaking issue.”
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Photo credit: Tom Wardill