The food bank that supplies food pantries in 40 Michigan counties had a record year.
Last year Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank got more food donations and distributed more food than ever. More than 25 million pounds went to food pantries in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
The food bank’s CEO Ken Estelle says demand is up. Unlike during the recession, he says most people looking for free food these days are employed.
“The story you hear over and over and over again is ‘yes we have a part-time job,' maybe 'we have two part-time jobs. I’m able to pay the rent, pay the utilities, and keep the car on the road so I can keep my job’ – but at the end of the day or the end of the month, there’s just nothing left to eat,” Estelle said.
He expects demand will continue to rise.
“You hear about the reduction in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, or food stamp benefits; that went into effect in late November. We saw an increase related to that. At the end of December, of course, a number of people lost their long-term unemployment and so we’re expecting to see an increase related to that,” Estelle said.
Estelle says the food bank also got better at getting food to rural communities. It sends up to three semi-trucks of food to the UP each week.