“We have 1.3 million people in our state, 13 percent of the population has food insecurity rate issues,” says Kim Harkness, director of operations for the Greater Lansing Food Bank.
Thousands of families, seniors and children, are living proof of the hunger epidemic right here in mid-Michigan.
Harkness explains the scope of the challenge to end hunger locally. “Our seven-county territory here, it ranges anywhere from one county might have a low of 30 percent to one county has close to 60 percent of the kids in the school getting food.”
Half of the kids at school in this area get free or reduced-price lunches.
And that doesn’t include the weekends, when many kids go hungry.
“Food is part of our life, but think about when food is not part of your life, you have stress, you have anxiety, you’re not getting the nutrients to grow, thrive and be a part of society,” adds Harkness.
But society is trying to help.
Weekend survival kits are packed full of food that get passed out to kids at school.
Maddie Knott, outreach coordinator for Northwest Initiative, explains the project’s impact. “This ensures that children, at least on the weekends and during holidays, don’t have to be looking for their next meal.”
Twice a month Northwest Initiative workers and volunteers of all ages come together to put the bags together.
“We try to have a staple starch item, so that might be like noodles or rice, and then we try to have something like dried beans, something with a little bit more nutrients in it, and then we try to have other things that have a pretty stable shelf life, and then we try to have snacks, something that is very kid-friendly,” explains Knott.
But these bags full of food don’t only help the kids.
Knott adds, “a lot of their families also end up relying on these meals so like the rice and beans ends up feeding the family and not just one kid.”
How big is this program?
“Usually at the beginning of the year, it starts out at around 900, by the end of the year it can get close to around 2,000,” says Knotts.
From September to May there are more than 10,000 survival kits that get put into the hands of more than 10,000 children.
“When you get to meet the families or see the kids faces when they get something like this and the impact it has on them, I think it’s great,” says volunteer A’me McGill-Austin.
You can help fight hunger in our area this Friday during the 12th annual WLNS-TV 6 “Day of Giving” events in Lansing and Jackson.
Between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. you can bring your cash or non-perishable food donations to the WLNS-TV 6 studios in Lansing or Consumers Energy in downtown Jackson.
Stop in with your donations and say “hello” to your friends from 6 News during “Day of Giving” this Friday!