Unpacking boxes at Kids' Food Basket

Kids’ Food Basket Delivers 250,000 Emergency Meals (and Counting) During COVID-19

Before stay-at-home orders took effect due to COVID-19, West Michigan-based Kids’ Food Basket was sending home sack suppers to more than 8,800 kids in Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa and Allegan counties. More than 300 volunteers were needed each day to assemble and deliver the meals, which were distributed to 52 schools where 70% or more of the student population receive free or reduced-cost lunch.

Worker wearing a mask at Kids' Food BasketStaff at the non-profit knew the need for healthy meals would only increase throughout the pandemic as parents and caregivers faced lost income due to unemployment or reduced hours. They quickly changed their operating model to ensure kids and families wouldn’t have to worry about hunger on top of everything else.

Since the pandemic began, Kids’ Food Basket has delivered more than 250,000 emergency meals and will continue to do so throughout the summer months. A $50,000 donation in March from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was used as a donor match opportunity by the organization. In total, $140,000 was raised through those efforts.

“Kids’ Food Basket fills an incredible need in West Michigan,” said Suzanne Miller Allen, director, Community Responsibility, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “We were happy to support their efforts as they worked tirelessly to make sure kids and families had their basic hunger needs met. We value all the partner organizations we work with in West Michigan and throughout the state for their support in helping advance health for all Michiganders.”

Decorated bags to hold sack suppers

Sack suppers are delivered in decorated paper bags.

“We are truly humbled by the generosity of our West Michigan community,” said Bridget Clark Whitney, president and founding CEO, Kids’ Food Basket. “The COVID-19 crisis has escalated need for access to consistent, healthy meals. It has shown a spotlight on serious inequalities within our communities. Most people are hurting – and people who were already dealing with low-income, discrimination and barriers are hurting even more. We see families in need, and we see families stepping up to help their neighbors. When things seem the worst, we have the opportunity to be our best.”

To meet the need safely, Kids’ Food Basket staff are assembling and distributing the emergency meals themselves. The food is delivered to 70 distribution sites located in densely populated areas serving low-income families in the counties KFB serves. All on-site volunteer opportunities have been suspended until further notice. Partner organizations are also stepping up to deliver food to individuals and families identified as high need.

The pandemic has also changed operations at the organization’s organic farm, which Blue Cross has previously supported. Instead of the anticipated 30-60 volunteers they’d planned for, 3-4 staff members are planting, weeding and harvesting produce. The plan is to include harvested snap peas, green beans and broccoli in sack suppers moving forward and other produce will hopefully be used for school taste testing in the fall.

Want to help Kids’ Food Basket meet food insecurity needs in West Michigan? Text ‘KFB’ to 56651 to give to Kids’ Food Basket.

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Photos courtesy of Kids’ Food Basket

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