Food giveaway for families in need Friday

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The NAACP of Greater Grand Rapids is collaborating with Feeding America West Michigan (FAWM) for a food giveaway on Friday.

This marks the second giveaway the NAACP has hosted this summer. On Friday, they say they hope to distribute food to 250 families.

“There’s a huge need, specifically in 49507, which is already what’s considered a food desert. There’s an extreme need for fresh produce and that’s why we’re doing in this,” said Kareem Scales with the NAACP.

The food giveaway will be held outside of the NAACP’s Grand Rapids office on Madison Avenue and Cottage Grove Street on the city’s southeast side.

The NAACP says the southeast side is home to the communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Scales says in addition to heightened health impacts, many families of color have reached out to their organization, expressing concern about finances and food insecurity.

“Unfortunately, Black and Brown communities have been in a pandemic long before COVID-19, so what we’re seeing now is nothing new,” said Scales. “One of the main things we’ve seen heightened is the health disparities and as it relates to preexisting health conditions.”

Feeding America West Michigan, one of the organizations participating in the giveaway, says they’ve also seen large impacts due to the pandemic.

The organization estimates it gave out nearly 20 million pounds of food to families in 40 Michigan counties from March to August. For comparison, FAWM distributed about 25 million pounds total in 2019.

“Our food supply was getting incredibly low and there was a time when we were actually afraid of running out of food,” said FAWM CEO Ken Estelle of the extreme need this spring. “When the crisis hit, you found people were one paycheck away from not being able to have food on the table.”

Thursday, a group of volunteers and members of the National Guard packed boxes with dry goods and filled bags of peanuts for upcoming mobile food pantries. They say families who show up to the NAACP food giveaway on Friday will be given a box full of healthy food to sustain them.

Spectrum Health and the YMCA will also supply fresh produce.

“If you don’t have enough to eat, you really just have one problem and that’s ‘how do I make sure my kids have enough to eat for tomorrow?’ and we found when you supply that food and you get that need met, then they can look at some other things they might need help with,” said Estelle.

The NAACP says they will distribute food from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Additionally, the organization teamed up with Cherry Health to provide free COVID-19 testing on site. Testing will be available from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday.

“I think it gives them a sense of encouragement that there are individuals who are looking to serve them. There are people in our community that are in their corner,” said Scales of the upcoming food giveaway.

The NAACP says there will also be information on voter registration and the 2020 census. They say everyone is eligible. The food will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

More information can be found on the NAACP’s Facebook page. Additional mobile food pantries and food giveaways can be found on Feeding America West Michigan’s website.

Both FAWM and the NAACP say they accept monetary donations from community members who would like to support their efforts.