We began this month ready to tackle one of our family ‘s New Year’s Resolutions–to give back to our community. Our first step was to find a place that would welcome kids under 14. We also wanted to find a volunteer opportunity that would make us feel like donating our time would make a difference.
Our research led us to Gleaners Community Food Bank and their popular Kids Helping Kids (KHK) program. Every third Saturday of the month, Gleaners welcomes families to pack bags of food that are delivered to kids throughout Detroit. On your volunteer day, you may pack grocery bags each with thirty healthy, midday snacks that will be earmarked for classrooms.
Other days, KHK program participants may pack weekend “backpacks” that are filled with six meals for kids to eat on the weekends when they don’t have access to the free breakfast and lunch they get at school during the week.
On our designated Saturday afternoon, we headed down to the Detroit Distribution Center on Beaufait. After parking in the lot directly across from the warehouse, we entered and saw hundreds of volunteers waiting to get to work. These volunteers would be working in the general warehouse, sorting and packing food. Families waited off to the side to be taken upstairs to a dedicated group packing room.
We headed upstairs and started our shift in a bright, cheerful room overlooking a large community garden. Reggie, Gleaners’ Family Day volunteer manager, warmly welcomed us, gave us our jobs, turned on the radio and set us to work. We hustled and bustled with other families from all over metro Detroit and were proud when Reggie complemented us on our job well done. After the packing, Reggie took us on a tour of the warehouse and taught us more about hunger in Detroit and Southeast Michigan as well as the role Gleaners plays. Our kids got to hear about hunger from the front lines, allowing them to imagine what life would be like if they were the ones without enough to eat each day.
On our tour, we learned that 1 out of every 8 Americans is food insecure, which means they do not know where their next meal will come from. In Michigan, the number is one out of every six. We learned that many kids who receive free breakfast and lunch at school go hungry over the weekend when school is out. With 25 percent of Michigan kids living in poverty, there is no shortage of kids that need help. The Kids Helping Kids program gives the kids that don’t have to worry about food a great chance to help those that do.
Gleaners sources food by working with grocers, retailers, food manufacturers, the government and Michigan residents. The organization then distributes food either directly to the community or through community agencies such as food pantries. In the past year, Gleaners donated close to 35,000,000 meals. That works out to almost 100,000 meals every day. With all that food to take in and get out the door, they rely on thousands of volunteers–50,000 to be exact. All of those volunteers save Gleaners from having to pay people to sort, pack and deliver the food, allowing more food to get to the people who need it most.
We left pretty thankful for what we have and feeling good knowing that somewhere in Detroit, a kid would go to sleep with a slightly fuller tummy thanks to Gleaners and the chance they gave us to help make a difference.
You can make a difference too by signing up for Family Day at Gleaners and get your kids helping other kids in Detroit.