Mobile Food Pantry program fights hunger in harder-to reach places

Feeding America West Michigan one of 114 food banks to receive Enbridge funds on Giving Tuesday

Hunger is often a hidden issue, and part of what makes it so tough to spot is that it can affect virtually anyone without showing signs.

As Ken Estelle, CEO of Feeding America West Michigan, puts it: “People don’t hang a sign up outside of their door saying, ‘I need food.’ ”

“They may have just lost a job, endured an injury, or are working and just not making ends meet – but they look just like anyone else.”

Feeding America West Michigan's former CEO, John Arnold, developed the organization's Mobile Food Pantry program in the 1990s. Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the program has been adopted by food banks nationwide.

Since Michigan’s Upper Peninsula presents a unique challenge of rural communities that are spread across a complex geography, the access to fresh food and produce options are limited.

Estelle explains that people without the means to buy fresh food fall into an unfortunate cycle.

“Those with lower or no income will go and get whatever food they can, which usually means cheaper foods that are typically processed,” says Estelle. “This can then yield health issues that compound everything else that these people are going through.”

Enbridge is committed to improving quality of life in the communities where we operate. This week, to celebrate Giving Tuesday, we donated funds to 114 food banks and food pantries across North America—donations totaling about C$283,000 in Canada, and about US$102,000 in the U.S.—to fund ongoing operations and Christmas hamper programs.

Our US$10,000 donation to Feeding American West Michigan will help fund an additional four Mobile Pantries in St. Ignace, MI, each carrying 10,000 pounds of food items.

The hundreds of individuals and families seeking food support every month aren't necessarily who you would expect. Even Estelle admits to having fallen victim to believing stereotypes associated with hunger, prior to meeting food insecure people face to face.

“I started working for food banks after the first time I volunteered with my wife,” says Estelle.

“The people we serve are folks who, for whatever reason, have had circumstances in their lives that led here. It could truly be anyone.”