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Wednesday, November 2,2011

Restoring Survival Kits

by Nyssa Rabinowitz

The Weekend Survival Kit program that provided the area’s neediest elementary schoolchildren with packs of food to get through the weekend might be reinstated next summer, sources say. 


The Mid-Michigan chapter of the American Red Cross announced last week that the Mid-Michigan Food Bank, a pilot program of the American Red Cross that used to run the program, will merge with the Greater Lansing Food Bank by July 1,  John Cauley, the chapter’s executive director, said.


“We think it will be in the best interest of the community to have these operations under one roof,” Cauley said. “(The Mid-Michigan Food Bank) will no longer be a Red Cross program. We’re going to be totally focused on the Red Cross mission and we’re going to let the Mid-Michigan Food Bank be totally focused on their mission.”


The American Red Cross refocused its core mission in August to concentrate on disaster relief, cutting resources that addressed a former mission to reduce hunger. That decision, along with the removal of management personnel to run the program, forced the Mid-Michigan Food Bank to end the Weekend Survival Kit Program, said Jim Ramos, a former AmeriCorps volunteer stationed at NorthWest Initiative who delivered kits to children at Riddle School, one of the district’s poorest elementary schools.


Ramos said the program might return following the Food Bank merge.


“We’re hopeful that when the dust settles the partnership between Mid-Michigan and the Greater Lansing Food Bank will continue the program,” Ramos said. 


NorthWest Initiative delivered 233 kits to Riddle last Friday after fundraising to continue the program. A larger group of volunteers is working to deliver kits to 12 Lansing schools that participated in the program last year, including Riddle, Ramos said. 


“The excitement of the kids was just phenomenal,” Ramos said. “You know you’ve done something really good.”


The group hopes to make another delivery later this month, said Randy Bell, a group organizer.


Joe Wald, executive director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank, said it was too early in the merging process to determine which programs may be brought back.


“What we will be doing is looking at all the programs of both organizations,” Wald said. The Weekend Survival Program, which his Food Bank has supported in the past, will be one of the programs the merger considers restoring, he added.


Wald said he hopes the merger strengthens community support for the organization and helps it feed the hungry effectively and efficiently.


“It’s such an amazing need that we can’t miss (this opportunity),” he said. “We’ve got to be successful. There’s no room for failure because the outcome is so important.”



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