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Kids, parents and teachers from schools all over southeastern Michigan have joined Gleaners in the fight against hunger. This is the place to learn more about hunger in America and your neighborhood, what happens to your school abilities when you're hungry, what Gleaners does to help the hungry, and how you can help.
1 in 8 Americans, including 600,000 in southeast Michigan, worry about where their next meal is coming from. You may already know that poverty (not having enough money to provide good food and shelter) is a big problem when it comes to eating a healthy diet. Parents often have to choose between paying for housing or heat or medicine before they can buy food. Every month, the money runs out before they can buy the food they need.
The number of children and families in need is surprising: about 95,000 people receive emergency food assistance in any given week in southeastern Michigan. That's roughly the same number of people that live in Dearborn Heights, or Taylor, or Royal Oak, or Shelby Township! At least one in three households receiving food have one or more adults that are working.
Most of our hungry neighbors are working families, seniors and children. Many are new to needing emergency food supplies and are forced to make the difficult choice between paying for housing or medicine and food.
Fortunately, there are places that distribute food to families who need it. Gleaners is the source of food for places like pantries, shelters and soup kitchens. Together, we make sure that food supplies are always available to help keep kids healthy so they can grow up strong and do well in school.
What happens to kids when they don't get enough to eat? Undernourished children can suffer from headaches, fatigue, frequent colds and other illnesses. This causes them to be less attentive, less curious, and have difficulty concentrating. These problems can have a big effect on how they perform in school, with lower test scores and more days absent from class.
The impact of childhood hunger can be lifelong. Undernourished children can have developmental problems that lead to weak bones and muscles, or a weakened immune system. Hunger can result in headaches, dizziness, stomach pain and other physical ailments that negatively impact student performance. Poor performance is associated with higher drop out rates.
Back in 1977, when Gleaners first started, there was a surplus of good food that was going to waste because there was no way to get it from the food producers to people in need. There were food pantries and soup kitchens, but they could never store or use large supplies of food. What Gleaners does is connect the sources of healthy, surplus food with those who need it. Gleaners is called a food bank because we collect and store food for other agencies to distribute when it is needed.
How do we do this? Gleaners has a network of many suppliers, a fleet of trucks, and five big warehouses. Computers track the inventory, orders are taken by telephone, and shipments are organized for local agencies to pick up. We get, then store and distribute a great amount of food: over 30 million pounds last year.
What kinds of agencies get food from Gleaners? Some operate soup kitchens where they serve meals. Others operate food pantries where people can get a 3-5 days supply of food that they can take home and cook. Others include shelters, human services and nonprofit organizations that serve meals or distribute food packages. Food is also made available to organizations that serve disaster relief sites. Our combined efforts have developed a network that provides healthy, nutritious food to the greatest number of those in need.