As of this year there are more than 200,578 acres of farmland in Ingham County, yet 17 percent of the population is suffering from food insecurity. Michigan is a leading agricultural state that makes up for about 1 percent of the total food production in the United States but in its own capital city, people are hungry. The Greater Lansing Food Bank says that in mid-Michigan alone, one in four children will go to bed hungry.
Demphna Krikorian, the director of development at Child and Family Charities, said that the organization comes across a significant number of hungry children and families in Ingham every year.
“When our team attendants are referred a child, oftentimes they’ll go into the home and they’ll find out that a large chunk of kids they work with, probably like 85 to 89 percent of the families they work with, are at poverty or below poverty and some of them are even living in shelters.”
Local school districts have programs for families who are struggling with food insecurity. The problem with these programs is that to apply, a family must have an income equal to or below 200 percent of the poverty level. Thirty-three percent of the hungry children in Ingham County are ineligible for federal nutrition programs because their family income is above 200 percent of poverty. The 2016 poverty guidelines for a family of four consist of an annual income of $24,300 or below.
East Lansing Public Schools offer free or reduced price meals for breakfast and lunch on school days. The price reductions are significant but if the household’s income exceeds the limits of the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines then the child may not be eligible for free or reduced meals.
“We serve about 1,500 free or reduced price lunches in our schools every day,” said Jillian Wensel, assistant food service director of the East Lansing School District. “There is no limit for how many applications we accept. If every student in the district wanted to turn in an application, I would accept them all.”
The East Lansing School District does not assist children with food needs while they are on a holiday break or summer vacation, but there are other programs like SFSP available during those times.
With six divisions and over-17 programs, Child and Family Charities has become a well-known service provider in mid-Michigan. One of its programs is the Street Outreach Program, whose purpose is to bring food to local homeless children, youth and families each year.
“We don’t ask for any eligibility criteria, everything is need based,” said Krikorian. “When you run into homeless people and you have food, you give them food. Our Street Outreach team served approximately 6,000 people this past year.”
Ingham County has the most agencies out of all seven counties in mid-Michigan.
These agencies consist of soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. The Greater Lansing Food Bank and Southside Community Kitchen of Lansing are just a couple of the local nonprofit organization agencies that strive to stop hunger in Ingham County. Almost all the food given out by these organizations is donated by members of the community whether that be from local restaurants, can drives or cash donations.
The soup kitchens and shelters try to coordinate with their suppliers to make sure that they can prepare balanced meals for all of their guests. Since ninety-six percent of people suffering from food insecurity cannot afford to eat balanced meals, community kitchens make sure they have every food group available for each guest.
“We have a balance; we always have a meat, always have a starch, always have a vegetable, always have a fruit of some sort or rather, every day,” said Carole Kienke, a volunteer at the Southside Community Kitchen.
“At the end of the day, you know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life,” said Marcia Beer, the Executive Director of Southside Community Kitchen. “They come in hungry and they leave. They’re satisfied but also they feel like they have been valued and someone has seen them and has cared enough to bring them a meal.”
Click here to donate to the Greater Lansing Food Bank and help the hungry in the Ingham community.
If you or someone you know is facing food insecurity, call 866-561-2500 to get help and find the nearest food distribution center by you.