Daily Tribune (Michigan), July 18, 2008: Need for food aid increasing
By VALERIE WEST
Journal Register News Service
Milk, $3.49 per gallon. Eggs, $1.79 for one dozen. Bread, $1.45 for a loaf. Step into a grocery store and even the bargain-brand prices on staple items can cause sticker shock for many buyers.
With the combination of home foreclosures and Michigan’s bleak job market, just affording a well-balanced meal can become a financial burden for families, forcing some to choose between utilities and food.
Local food banks and pantries are trying to keep up with the increased demand, but they can’t do it alone.
“Right now, we’re able to keep our heads above water,” said Mike McDonald, director of operations for Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan. “But I don’t know how long that will be.”
Food banks such as Gleaners partner with member agencies, such as America’s Second Harvest organizations, along with community support and donations. The bank then redistributes food and items to people in need through pantries, churches, soup kitchens and senior centers.
In Oakland County, more than 3.7 million meals are delivered annually by Gleaners.
Now, the need for food is greater than ever.
“We’d see folks who just needed a jump start to get back on their feet,” McDonald said. “Once they got back on their feet, they’d become donors. We’re now seeing a reverse; our donors are becoming in need.”
Unfortunately, children aren’t spared.
More than 27,000 children in Oakland County live in households receiving food stamps, according to Gleaners, and about 10 percent of children 17 and younger live in poverty.
Community members are taking strides to combat hunger.
This weekend, the third annual charity bike event, Thunder for Hunger, will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For $10, bikers can ride and dine for a cause. The event will kick off at Bullfrog’s, 2225 Ortonville Road, Ortonville. Bikers will travel to Madden’s Lounge, at 802 State Road in Davison for festivities including food, vendors and entertainment. All proceeds will go to Outreach East of Davison and Gleaners.
“We got involved with the food bank to help feed the hungry and have a good time,” said Doug Madden, co-owner of Madden’s Lounge, who added they plan to continue the event in the future.
Companies also are finding ways to help, and workers are getting their hands dirty in the process.
DTE Energy has two first-ever community gardens, one in Auburn Hills. To date, more than 500 pounds of food have been harvested and donated, said Marc Zupmore, DTE Energy Garden Project manager.
Each Tuesday, from 4 to 7 p.m., community volunteers and special groups gather at the Auburn Hills garden at Carter Substation and water, weed and harvest the crops. This is the first year the company has had gardens, but plans are being made to seed 20 by next year, Zupmore said.
This week, the garden wilted because of the high temperatures. A volunteer asked a neighbor for water, and the plants started perking. The group was able to deliver 59 pounds of produce to the Auburn Hills Christian Center.
“In 24 hours, it’s going to be washed and on people’s tables. It’s been a very exciting project,” Zupmore said, adding that many of the items, such as the seedlings, were donated. Students from the Kennedy Center in Pontiac started the seedlings in a greenhouse earlier this year.
The 4,500-square-foot garden is now brimming with radishes, lettuce and Swiss chard, and will have zucchini, tomatoes, green peppers and carrots as the season wears on.
“We’re really looking for community involvement,” Zupmore said.
For those that want to help, McDonald said organizations are more than ready to accept as food donations tend to be highest during the holidays, McDonald said.
“But hunger has no season,” he said. “It is year-round.”
Protein items such as peanut butter, canned tuna and other canned meat are most needed. And while food donations are always accepted, money goes further.
“If you’re going to spend 89 cents on a can of corn, it’s always going to be a can of corn,” McDonald said. “But if you donate 89 cents, we can turn that into three cans of corn.”