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'Food From the Heart' event assembles 200,000 meals for hungry West Michigan families

Daniel Boothe

In an effort to fight hunger in Kent County, Heart of West Michigan United Way held its 2nd annual Food From the Heart event Monday at the Van Andel Arena. In partnership with non-profit Feeding America West Michigan, the two organizations hosted a number of volunteers to help assemble pre-packaged meals for local families. 

“We have a thousand volunteers coming into today, to pack 200,000 meals that will be distributed through Feeding America, to local food pantries, and give those to families throughout Kent County.” Michelle Van Dyke, President and CEO of Heart of West Michigan United Way said.

According to Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle, hunger affects 1 out of 8 adults in Kent County, and 1 out of 5 children.

“And that is part of what we are hoping today, is that people remember that there are still many, many families that are struggling with understanding where their next meal is coming from," Estelle said. "Even despite of all of the good things, we hear about Grand Rapids and our economy, the housing market, unemployment, all great numbers, but the reality is, is there are still 73,000 people just in Kent County, that worry about where their next meal may be coming from, and of that, 23,000 children right here in Kent County as well.”

Out of those 73,000 many receive benefits through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. According to the Associated Press, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate $193 billion from the program over the next 10 years, thus reducing the value of food stamps to $1.04 per meal.

“It’s going to have a big impact on the hungry, and those who are impoverished in West Michigan, and it’s really a gap that local philanthropy cannot fill.”

Estelle added that statistically the majority of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from in West Michigan are employed, they just do not earn enough money to make ends meet.

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