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Wednesday, February 10,2010

In the bank

The Greater Lansing Food Bank raises more than expected and wants to put it back in people's stomachs

by Megan Murphy

The results are in and the Greater Lansing Food Bank raised over $1,048,624.29 to help the hungry in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties during its annual Envelope Fund Raising Campaign.


This year’s fundraiser saw significantly more donations than in years past, and the GLFB will be putting the money back into its programs, including thousands of dollars that will go toward buying fresh produce.


Board Chairwoman Cheryl Wald said the campaign is the food bank’s only and largest major fundraiser.


The campaign is a collaboration between the Food Bank and other partners who help distribute many preaddressed donation envelopes in November and December of each year.


“Each and every year we really never know what to expect,” Wald said. “We are always cautiously optimistic; we are always honored by the commitment of the community to give, whether it’s $1, $5 or $500.”


“We feel that by doing the right thing, getting out in the community, giving programs and getting people involved, it’s like pay it forward. The people will continue to participate and want to be part of it and continue to give and support the organization,” Wald said.


Frank Fear, senior associate dean of the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has been on the food bank’s board for 25 years, and has also served as president of the board for two terms.


“The need is greater when the economy is not as good. But we’re always fearful because when the economy is not as good, the donations will go down,” Fear said. “When times are better people might have more discretionary income to give, but the numbers of people seeking food might not be as high.”


What’s amazing to Fear is that in the last two years the campaign has broke its fundraising records, despite Michigan’s struggling economy. The donations are given by people who care and have a lot of respect for the Greater Lansing Food Bank, Fear said.


“To raise over $1 million in this circumstance in Lansing with so many people out of work is just unbelievable,” Fear said.


Terry Link, executive director of the food bank, said it is exciting to think about all of the positive things the food bank can now do, thanks to the donations.


“We’re trying to improve the nutritional value of the food people are getting,” Link said. “This is an opportunity for higher quality food and to support local producers and businesses in any way that we can.”


Link is proud of the neighborhood-feel that the food bank and the market give off when people come in to purchase food.


“When people come in line to get food, they’re talking to each other about their circumstances. The exchange of people being neighborly and caring about each other is an inspiring thing to see,” said Link.


Because more money was raised than expected, the food bank was able to distribute it among six different board approved actions, which will help the people of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties get fed.


An additional $50,000 will go to the purchase and distribution of food to pantries and related agencies in the three counties; $50,000 will pay for a food specialist who is trained to identify opportunities and purchase food for distribution in the counties; $25,000 will go to purchasing fresh produce and dairy for distribution; $40,000 will go toward contracts with local growers to purchase fresh produce for distribution; and $55,000 will expand the food bank’s community gardens, which will allow the food bank to work off of its existing knowledge through its Garden Project team and allow it to train more people. Finally, $30,000 has been approved to develop an urban farm to grow fresh food for area food recipients.

Fear
said that, according to a Feeding America study, 37 million people in
this the U.S. use a food bank at least once a year, and 14 million are
children.

“The great thing about Lansing is that the people here care,” Fear said.


“The
six board approved actions are the kind of investments that we on the
board feel very, very good about, given the situation,” said Fear. “But
let’s be clear about it: it’s not curing hunger. We’re trying to deal with hunger and all the other things that the economic situation gives us.”



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