One out of eight people in Menominee County is food insecure. In other words, more than ten percent of the county lacks consistent access to enough food to sustain a healthy life, or food that is nutritionally adequate.
Last week, we traveled to the upper peninsula and visited the Carney-Nadeau school, which serves youth from pre-K to 12th grade in Menominee County. We were there to to see its backpack program, which the Health Endowment Fund supports through a grant to the M&M Area Community Foundation.
Angie Williams, who directs food service at Carney-Nadeau, recounted stories of children for whom “food insecurity” is not just a catchy phrase, but a daily reality. Sometimes these children ask for food at lunchtime to take home for dinner, or for their siblings, or on Fridays so they can have something to eat over the weekend.
Williams initially struggled to create a backpack program, facing funding and promotional challenges. That’s when the Michigan Health Endowment Fund grant provided some much needed support.
Working through Feeding America, Williams can now purchase boxes of food, as well as basic dental and health supplies, for only six cents per pound. With the outside funding, the school allowed her to use refrigerated storage space for the boxes. She sends home a box a month with students whose families have indicated need. She’s helping 30 children a month—and their families—get the nutrients they need to live a healthy, active, life.
Williams still faces barriers. She says the need is more than double what she can currently provide. And kids who receive the boxes aren’t currently able to take them home on the school bus. Plus, she worries about what will happen during summer months when the school doesn’t function as a natural distribution point.
But she’s steadily working to remove those roadblocks: she’s planning to meet with bus drivers to work on a solution for transporting the boxes home, and looking at churches and other community members as centralized distribution points.
Williams is working with a small portion of our overall grant to the M&M Area Community Foundation—less than $10,000. But as she says, “up here you can make that amount of money go a long way.” After watching her in action, we wouldn’t bet against her.