Kellogg Community College will celebrate Giving Tuesday Nov. 30 with a donation drive to help address student food insecurity on campus. Below is a Q&A post focused on food insecurity and food insecurity initiatives at KCC from Donielle Hetrick, the South Michigan Food Bank’s community impact coordinator for Branch and Calhoun counties. KCC partnered with the food bank to offer Fresh Food Distribution events on campus this summer and fall to distribute free fresh food to students and community members in need.
What is the purpose of the South Michigan Food Bank? What kinds of things does the organization do for the community?
South Michigan Food Bank is one of seven food banks in Michigan. We serve eight counties: Barry, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Calhoun, Branch, Lenawee, Hillsdale and Jackson. Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for those struggling with hunger in South Michigan. We do this by partnering with 335 agencies like food pantries, food distribution sites, soup kitchens and schools to supply food to communities. Last year we distributed over 14.5 million pounds of food in our eight counties.
What do you do as Community Impact Coordinator at the South Michigan Food Bank? What does your job entail?
I am the Community Impact Coordinator for Branch and Calhoun counties. I support all of our partnering agencies in those two counties as well as work to make sure the people in those counties have the food resources they need.
How would you define food insecurity? What is it, and how prevalent is it in our community?
I would define food insecurity as struggling to access or afford nutritious food. It’s not knowing if you can afford to buy everything you need at the grocery store. It’s choosing between putting gas in your car or buying fresh produce. It’s not having access, either due to transportation or living in a food desert, to nutritious food. It’s skipping meals or eating less because you simply don’t have enough food. Unfortunately, food insecurity is very prevalent in our community and across the county.
Describe the South Michigan Food Bank’s Fresh Food Distribution events. What happens at a Fresh Food Distribution event? Who do the events benefit, and how?
Our Fresh Food Distributions are one of my favorite initiatives we have at the South Michigan Food Bank. We partner with community organizations like KCC to host distributions at their sites. We deliver prepackaged boxes of 20-plus pounds of fresh produce along with extras like milk, bakery items and meat to our partnering agencies. Our partnering agencies then host a drive-thru distribution, where volunteers load food into clients’ vehicles.
We have found multiple benefits to our Fresh Food Distributions. With an ongoing pandemic, our current drive-thru model helps ensure the health and safety of both volunteers and clients. Fresh Food Distributions are also an effective way to provide fresh, nutritious food to our community. Since 2020, we have increased the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we’ve distributed by 145%.
What do you think people should know about food insecurity in the Battle Creek area or in general?
Food insecurity is something that impacts so many people in the Battle Creek area and in communities across the state. It’s your neighbor, it’s the lady in front of you in the grocery store, the guy sitting next to you at church. It’s the kid on your child’s little league team, it’s the student sitting across from you in the library. It’s people who are living paycheck to paycheck or on fixed incomes. Food insecurity is something that so many of the people we work with, are friends with or even call family struggle with. Which is why things like KCC’s Fresh Food Distribution are so important!
How can people best address food insecurity in their community?
I think the best way people can help address food insecurity is by joining us in the movement to end hunger! How exactly you join the movement is up to you. If you have time, volunteer at a local food pantry, Fresh Food Distribution site like KCC or even come down to the South Michigan Food Bank and help us pack our fresh food boxes. Hosting things like food drives or fund drives are a great way to get involved, raise money and awareness. Help spread the word on the food resources available in your community. For a list of those resources, you can visit the South Michigan Food Bank’s website at smfoodbank.org.
Giving Tuesday is Nov. 30. Click here for more information about Giving Tuesday at KCC or visit kellogg.edu/donate to donate today.