Aimee Lewis and her three sons have found a home. Her main preoccupation is eating.
Lewis, who holds a master’s degree in organizational development for human resources from Eastern Michigan University, says she used to be able to fill a shopping basket for $150.
“It’s now $300,” she remarked.
Her twins are only 3-years-old but she also has a son, who is 9, and three developing boys eat a lot more than one would anticipate.
Their favorite foods have increased in price, from fresh fruit and yogurt to hamburgers and apple sauce.
Lewis has a neighboring food pantry.
Food pantries in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, as well as mobile units that went out into the areas, supported people during the pandemic lockdown.
Gleaners Community Food Bank helps keep food pantries stocked.
According to Stacy Averill, Gleaners’ vice president of community giving, the last few years have been difficult for both the community and food banks.
The network of 600 Gleaners partners that distribute food around Southeast Michigan, including churches, nonprofits, community agencies, shelters, and schools, is reporting an increase in need.
Averill says some partners have seen a 10%-12% boost.
More individuals are using mobile sites.
“Our mobile trucks served 13,000 households last month, up from 9,000,” Averill added.
Gleaners have been able to keep up with the expanding demand, but the rising cost of food is also putting a strain on the food bank.
“Inflation obviously affects our costs,” Averill added. “We’ve seen increases in fruit, produce, meat, and milk.”
Unlike anything, she’s seen since joining the Detroit-based group nearly nine years ago.
She calculated that food expenditures have jumped 10% to 25% since the outbreak.
Milk is one of those variable commodities everyone buys, and its costs were growing before the pandemic due to fewer dairy farms and supply chain concerns.
“The average price of a gallon of milk in March was $3.92, up from $3.88 in February,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on April 12, 2022. (BLS).
A gallon of fresh, whole, and fortified milk averaged $3.55 in 2021 compared to $3.32 in 2020, a 6.9% rise.
A gallon won’t break the bank, but a truckload of milk?
Averill says Gleaners plans to spend over $500,000 extra on milk this year and is already overspending on veggies.
Worse, all food is supplied by gas-powered trucks. That includes Gleaners’ 25 commercial trucks utilized for mobile distribution, adding to the nonprofit’s donation-dependent burden.
Our community donors include people, groups, and corporations, Averill noted.
Fundraisers like Powered by Food, which has a large match from PNC, will also help Gleaners.
“This is PNC’s ninth year supporting Gleaners Double Your Donation Day,” said PNC Regional President Mike Bickers. “As the principal match sponsor, PNC is committed to helping alleviate the nation’s hunger crisis.”
Gleaners began in 1977. Gene Gonya co-founded Gleaners Community Food Bank in 1989, renting the first floor of a warehouse on Detroit’s east side, near the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.
The food bank’s aim is to collect leftover food, keep it safe, and distribute it to local groups that feed the hungry. Assuring the warehouse allowed Gonya to accept donations like agricultural goods and bank them for small or large groups.
And it was one of Detroit’s few food banks that could make substantial gifts. Years later, Gene and a few other food banks created Second Harvest, a national food bank network (now called Feeding America). Gene also founded the Michigan Food Bank Council.
Federal and state aid
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, also helps Lewis and other low-income families keep food on the table.
During the epidemic, the program’s qualifying restrictions were adjusted to help more people. While the state had planned to halt the benefit enhancements on April 15, the state has prolonged them until the end of the month.
“We just learned about it today,” said Ernest Cawley, director of Macomb Community Action.
Now the extensions are expected to be month-to-month, though everyone hopes the adjustments are permanent after the pandemic.
“Rising food and gas prices make it difficult for families to make ends meet. “We believe SNAP is beneficial,” Cawley added.
The MDHHS February 2022 Green Book shows that 1.32 million Michiganders got food aid from 705,000 households, totaling $320.4 million. Those are increases of 146,668, 76,175, and $182.9 million from February 2020. (132.9 percent ).
In February 2019, Macomb County has 47,162 households or 89,347 SNAP beneficiaries. 55,584 adults and 33,763 children received assistance. Benefits averaged $225.69 per family or $119.13 per recipient.
In February 2020, that number was 47,204 households or 89,394. Benefit recipients were 55,229 adults and 34,165 children.
Macomb County has 54,088 benefiting families this year. 65,539 adults and 39,657 children were among the 103,196 winners. It presently costs $460.26 per household ($241.24 per beneficiary).
Wayne County had 215,813 households, 409,557 residents, and $100,327,520 in food assistance payments.
According to the U.S. Census, 8.4% of Michigan adults and 54.44% of Michigan children reported not having enough food in the prior 7 days.
Cawley said the state had used benefits wisely and thoughtfully.
The USDA also launched the Epidemic EBT, which provides supplemental food assistance to students who temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a quick method to help individuals, said Cawley, who encourages anyone in need to seek help.
To the table
Michigan has 69 food pantries, according to BMC Public Health. 563 census tracts (435 urban, 128 rural) have a food pantry (20.3 percent of all census tracts in Michigan).
Michigan has 734 food pantries (587 urban, 147 rural), or 7.43 per 100,000 persons. 12.98 food pantries per sq mi
“We keep track of over 72 food pantries,” Cawley said. “Anyone struggling to make ends meet can save $100 a month by using food pantries. Fresh produce, meat, and dairy items are all available in a grocery store setting.
Needy people can find food at gis.macombgov.org/go/food.
A volunteer at St. Mary Queen of Creation Catholic Church in New Baltimore estimates a 100-person turnout today.
He and Paul Hartner agreed to help make deliveries for St. Mary’s because they hate seeing people go hungry. “I knew I had to help,” said Hartner, a retired schoolteacher who was astonished by the widespread sentiment. “It’s amazing.”
Jim Essig, of Sterling Heights, was also loading Hartner’s truck with milk.
Every week the food trucks line up. “Last week, the line was around the building.
Shannon Mallory, who claimed Gleaners provides most of the vegetables and milk they get, kept track of all the deliveries and what each pantry needed for the day.
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“We’ll take anything we can get,” said Dave Sisson, who was picking up a supply for the Shelby Township pantry.
Mr. Broughton, who retired from GM after 30 years and has volunteered for the food pantry at Community Christian Church in Sterling Heights for the past 12 years, said he wished for more fruit and vegetables.
Broughton claims they run the county’s largest pantry, helping thousands of individuals each month.
“The price of food and gas is insane,” Broughton said. My pension keeps me afloat. I just pity these kids.”
Volunteering at a food pantry is one method.
Supporting fundraisers and programs like “Stamp Out Hunger” can also help.
The NALC has been collecting non-perishable food contributions along mail routes for 30 years.
The Stamp Out Hunger food drive returns this spring on Saturday, May 14.
“We’ve been getting food from Gleaners, but less of it. In parallel, more homes are visiting our pantries,” said Shannon Mallory, a Macomb Community Action program manager.
25,000 peaked during the epidemic.
They were at 18,000 in February and 22,000 in April.
“The Letter Carriers food drive is on May 2nd. For the last two years, it’s been virtual, but this year it’s in person, and I’m hoping the public responds,” Mallory remarked, going past a wall of bare shelves