Simply Give campaign: How food programs help Kent County

Working to stop food insecurity in West Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - There are more than 400 free food assistance programs in Kent County and many of the food pantries are partnering with Meijer to stock its shelves. 

It's part of the Spring "Simply Give" campaign, which coincides with this week's LPGA Classic.

"It's not just an issue related to homelessness, it's not just an issue related to single parenting or one group of people, it's anyone and everyone that could potentially need to use a free food site in our community," Co-Executive Director for ACCESS of West Michigan Emma Garcia said. "Access cultivates solutions to poverty in Kent County."

The non-profit partners with churches, provides poverty education and helps support numerous food system programs including food pantries.

"Deeper than hunger the lack of consistent access to food in an equitable way throughout our neighborhoods is the real issue," Garcia said.

According to Garcia, about one in 12 people in Kent County use an emergency food site.

"In the pantry network alone, there were over 60,000 individuals who used a pantry one or more times, just in Kent County," Garcia said.

But there are more than just pantries to consider.

"Even in schools, kids receive free breakfast and lunch or reduced cost breakfast and lunch and sometimes an afterschool snack, so it's kids our neighborhoods, it's families all over our communities, urban, suburban, rural that are accessing free food," Garcia said.

Which is why programs like Simply Give are around.

"Simply Give is a wonderful campaign because it gets fresh, good Meijer food into the hands of people that need healthy options," Garcia said. "So instead of using reclaimed food that might be damaged or processed or boxed - just not as healthy as being able to go to the grocery store and purchase that food, we're able to connect with Meijer and ensure that their product gets out to the community and its what people need."

It's an effort to re-stock local food pantry shelves and during the years, it has generated millions of dollars in donations. The LPGA Classic starts Tuesday and goes through Sunday at Blythefield Country Club. 

From now until June 18, you can buy a $10 gift card at a Meijer checkout, which will be donated to that store's partnered pantry. The proceeds from this week's LPGA Classic also go toward the Simply Give program.  

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