By Max Gun
Holt Journal staff writer
The Holt Community Food Bank, 2021 Aurelius Road, has been a success and is continuing to grow and serve more families.
“I have been going to the Holt Food Bank every 30 days for food for almost two years, ever since I lost my job due to health reasons,” said a Holt Food Bank client and single mother of two who requested her name not be used. “They help me feed me and my children because I can’t afford to prepare every meal myself. The food may not stretch out for the entire month, but it helps out for a great portion of the month,” she said. “I have food stamps to get me through the remaining days of the month before I can go back to the Holt Food Bank.”
She also said in addition to food, the food bank helps with providing toiletries.
“I haven’t had to buy toothpaste, shampoo, or bar soap in about a year and a half,” she said.
John Busley, president of the board of directors of the food bank, said the key to the food bank’s success is awareness throughout the community.
“What has made us successful is we haven’t went out and begged people for money,” he said. “Once I do my job to make people aware of the food bank and what we’re trying to do here, then the donations and generosity pour in from the community.”
Busley said the Holt Food Bank is able to serve about 160 families per month, up from about 14 families per month from when he took his president position in 1999. The gargantuan rise in families served is due to the food bank’s budget (currently about $150,000 per year), as well as rising poverty.
“In 2002, 23 percent of the student population in Delhi Township lived in poverty, or lived within the guidelines that allowed them to receive food assistance,” Busley said. “Now in 2013, 46 percent of the student population lives in poverty. It’s doubled, and it’s very frightening. That’s why it’s so important that we’re here and have the resources available to help.”
Eligibility is determined by Capital Area Community Services.
Marina Poroshin, center coordinator for Capital Area Community Services, said “An individual or family must meet 100 percent poverty income guidelines, or be at or below 200 percent of the poverty rate in order to receive food assistance.”
According to Poroshin and the Michigan Department of Human Services Poverty Income Guidelines, the poverty rate is:
Household size / Monthly income
“The guideline is set by monthly income as opposed to annually, because someone could be making decent money in the first portion of the year, but then suddenly lose their job and be in need of a food bank for them and their family immediately,” Poroshin said. “We look at past and projected 30-day income to decide if someone is truly in need.”
Poroshin said her agency tries to provide other services.
“We meet with them, enter them in our database, and ask them questions about what other services they need other than food. Whether its senior citizen services, tax services, or help paying rent, we try to help them out with all of that based on our funding ability. We do a comprehensive assessment at the time of intake.”
The Holt Food Bank client and mother of two said the food she receives from the food bank is always fresh and the staff is very friendly.
“Nothing I have ever received has been moldy, freezer burned, or stale,” she said. “And the volunteers are always very polite. They ask you how your day is going when you walk in, and say God bless you when you leave.
“They are also very accommodating. I told them that my daughter’s birthday is coming up, and they instantly gave me a cake mix, frosting and candles so my daughter can have a birthday cake like every other young girl. That’s just awesome.”
The food bank gets a large amount of its money from several Holt civic service organizations.
Stuart Goodrich, member of the Holt Lions for 45 years, said raising money for the food bank is one of the Lions most successful projects each year.
“About 14 years ago, we noticed that the food bank was struggling for money, so I went to the Food Bank Board on behalf of the Lions and said we should start a fundraiser to raise some money,” he said. “We came up with a plan and worked with the local Delhi Township newspaper to put envelopes in the mailed-out daily paper, containing information on the food bank to spread awareness. If people wanted to send a donation in that envelope back to the food bank, then that’s totally up to them. We knew that if we just spread the word, the donations would eventually come.”
Goodrich said in the first year of this fundraiser, they raised only $600 for the food bank. The second year, they raised $1,400. Within the last seven years, they have never raised anything less than $30,000 a year for the Holt Food Bank, raising as much as $47,000 one year.
“We’ve taken a $2,600 investment in terms of postage and envelope cost that we put into each newspaper, and turned it into at least a $30,000 to $40,000 fundraiser annually,” Goodrich said. “We, the people of Delhi Township, want to make sure that we try and take care of our neighbors. That is what service organizations are for and we feel that we have a duty to give back.”
John Hayhoe, a Kiwanis Club member, said the Kiwanis have had a food bank fundraiser for 32 years.
“During the first week in December, we have Kiwanis members go around and put baskets in all of the Holt Public Schools,” he said. “Over about a month’s time, the students fill the baskets with canned goods, which we then donate to the Holt Food Bank.”
Hayhoe also said that while this is a feel-good type of project, more people than ever are asking for food.
“We are hoping that eventually we won’t have to do this anymore, but in all honesty, the future probably isn’t a pretty picture,” he said. “We understand that the Kiwanis and other groups will be needed because the government simply can’t take care of everyone. That’s where us civic service groups must come in and lend a hand to those in need.”
Bonnie Zdankiewicz, Holt Food Bank coordinator, said she couldn’t be more pleased with the support the food bank has received.
“We’ve had middle school kids come to us and say they had raised a bunch of food for us, totally unprovoked,” she said. We are also the only food bank in the greater Lansing area that does holiday distributions for our clients during Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Those distributions are in addition to the families’ monthly grocery pickup. We can afford to do that because of the overwhelming support we have gotten throughout the community.”
Busley said seeing the community come together has been a beautiful thing.
“It’s been a network of people who care about others. I call it community,” he said. It’s what we were raised to do, to love your neighbors and help people out.”
If you are in need of food, or want more information on how to donate or volunteer your time to the Holt Community Food Bank, call 517-694-9307, or visit holtfoodbank.org.