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Extraordinary effort to feed Michigan families during uncertain times

Hope Network has repurposed its red buses to help deliver essential supplies during the coronavirus closures. (Courtesy Hope Network)

From Flint to Grand Rapids, Michigan’s communities faced extraordinary struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, when Children’s Foundation established the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, a top and main priority funding area was support for food and essentials; since then, The Foundation has awarded more than $125,000 to projects in this area – approximately 40% of the fund.

By partnering with community organizations, food and household items are being effectively and efficiently provided to children and families experiencing great need.

In Detroit, that need has been especially great. Communities already considered underserved were hit uniquely hard with the virus, creating another barrier to accessing necessities. Fortunately, trusted and reliable organizations have been working diligently to fulfill need.

Development Centers Inc. serves low-income families in Northwest Detroit – part of the city which contains two zip codes with the highest numbers of Coronavirus cases statewide.

“There is a lot of fear in the community – people are afraid to leave their homes because the virus has been so destructive,” said Sally Bond, director of development. “It’s going to take a while for these communities to recover.”

With a $10,000 grant from Children’s Foundation, Development Centers has been providing food, diapers, and formula to at-risk families who participate in the Center’s early childhood programs. The organization set-up a drive-through food distribution site and provides porch drop-offs when necessary.

Other Detroit-based organizations have taken similar approaches, such as Detroit Public Schools Foundation. Representing 39,000 households in Detroit, more than 80% of which qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, DPS Foundation used a $7,500 grant from the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to feed students and their families.

Since many children ate most meals at school, DPS Foundation knew they had to step in to help. When families did not seek support at the Grab & Go sites or set up home delivery, educators listened closely to families to determine their needs.

“Teachers, counselors and staff had families check-ins and asked questions during virtual learning sessions to make sure the household was stable” said Pamela Moore, president and CEO at Detroit Public Schools Foundation. “Asking simple questions like, ‘What did you have for breakfast?’ to reveal if we needed to offer support.”

As in Detroit, the struggle to put food on the table is prevalent throughout the rest of Michigan. From east to west, food, meals, supplies, diapers, wipes, formula, and more are being distributed to families.

Grand Rapids non-profit, Hope Network Foundation, repurposed its Red Bus Relief Program to deliver essentials to families and the medically fragile using a $10,000 grant from Children’s Foundation.

“Shelter-in-place days and loss of income have created challenges for many households to obtain food,” said Steve Ragan, executive vice-president of Hope Network Foundation. “Our vehicles were sitting idle, so we reinvented how we could use them to support local communities.”

Undoubtedly, the past several months have created extraordinary challenge, but also extraordinary opportunity. Organizations, their teams and volunteers, have worked relentlessly and creatively to ensure communities are cared for and thousands of families are fed during the most uncertain of times.

For a complete list of COVID-19 Emergency Relief grantees who were awarded to provide food support, click here.

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