Fighting Childhood Hunger

WZZM -- This weekend, Saturday, October 27th, members of WZZM 13 team and their families, will team up with Kids' Food Basket in the fight against childhood hunger.

It's part of national Make A Difference Day, which was started by Gannett, WZZM 13's parent company.

"Each and every weekday we provide a very nutritious dinner in Kent County Schools where 80% or more of children are at or below poverty level," said says executive director, Bridget Clark Whitney. "The kids we serve are depending on these dinners for a tasty nutritious meal. Their parents are depending on it too."

Kids' Food Basket, celebrating its 10th anniversary, started when a local principal noticed a student digging through the trash for food to eat. She immediately contacted founder, Mary K. Hoodhood, for help.

"It costs a dollar a day to feed a child. One dollar for all that food. So I knew it was economical. I knew we had the volunteers to do it. It is not rocket science. You can talk about childhood hunger or we can make a sandwich and feed a kid and that is what I opted to do."

"Childhood hunger isn't something that exists in 3rd world countries or on our televisions or infomercials. It is something that is in our back yards," Whitney.

In Michigan, one in four children go hungry every day. The local non-profit sends nutritious meals, in paper sacks, home to about 5,000 elementary students in 35 Kent County schools every weekday. The meals contain more than 1,000 calories with each of the necessary food groups. This year, the organization opened a Muskegon County site which feed an additional 500 students.

Whitney says, "We've had requests for Muskegon County for years. In fact, we learned that Muskegon Heights had the highest poverty level of any school district in the state of Michigan and that is so close by to us. We knew that there was something that needed to be done and we could do it."?

With the help of volunteers, like Angela Suchecki, a customer service rep for 5th 3rd Bank, which lets her volunteer during work hours, the Muskegon site has gotten off to a great start.

"An hour is so little when kids are going hungry. It is very easy to get up and say I'm going to help today," said Suchecki.

Cozette Thomas is the program coordinator for the Kids' Food Basket Muskegon Satellite Office. She says volunteers make it possible for both locations to meet the needs of the community but especially in Muskegon, where she is the only regular staff member.

"We do about 500 sack suppers a day. Without my volunteers this would not happen at all," said Thomas. "Muskegon has lost a lot of jobs. The economy is really low. They just want to help the community get back on top."

"There are a variety of socio-economic factors that put kids in a situation where they need these meals. The bottom line is that kids simply need to get fed," said Whitney.

And, for all the work Kids Food Basket is doing, there is so much more to be done. Grand Rapids has 9 schools still on a waiting list and Muskegon Heights has 8.

"I'm a mother of 3 andI cant imagine any of my children going without food," said Suchecki. "So to know that there are some kids out there that don't have three meals a day, it is heartbreaking. I don't think any child should go hungry. "

And the workers and volunteers with Kids Food Basket won't rest easy until that is a fact.

"The same thing that keeps you up at night launches you out of bed in the morning, " saysBridget Clark Whitney, Executive Director of Kids' Food Basket.

More information on how to help Kids Food Basket, including an wish list, can be found on the organization's website


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