The holiday season is quickly approaching and the prospect of turkey dinners, pumpkin pie and football has many families eagerly anticipating the opportunity to relax and indulge. ‘Tis the season to celebrate with your loved ones, reflect on all you are thankful for and eat until you pop – but what about the families that aren’t so fortunate?
This was the thought William Birndorf had when he established Higher Hopes!, an organization with the primary objective to provide meals to poverty-stricken households whose children are enrolled in the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership Programs (Early Head Start, Head Start and the Great Start Readiness Program). Each year, they aim to distribute 1,000 full Thanksgiving Dinner Kits, which contain all of the necessary supplies to feed families and friends with a complete traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
“I saw a need to help families enjoy a healthy bounty of food for Thanksgiving in their own homes with their own families and friends,” said Birndorf. “We want families to know that there are a lot of people who care and want to help and this is one of the ways we can reach out to let them know that we’ve got their backs.”
Higher Hopes! is one of Gleaners’ 535 partner agencies and when their team isn’t busy providing families with Thanksgiving meals, Higher Hopes! partners with Gleaners during the summer months to provide meals through mobile pantries. In July and August 2016, Higher Hopes! provided nutritious food to 17 mobile pantry sites. Their 2017 goal is to increase that number and provide healthy meals to 40 sites.
“These are the months where families and children suffer the most from hunger because kids are not in school and there is less focus on helping at this time of the year,” said Birndorf. “[Kids] may not be getting the breakfast and lunch that they normally receive in school and mobile pantries are extremely helpful in bridging the gap until the kids are back in school.”
The summer meal kits contain between 30-40 pounds of food each – consisting of protein like chicken, whole grains, fresh produce and canned goods. Each kit provides enough food for 15-20 meals.
“We partner with Gleaners because with their wide network of sources, we can complete the menu [to provide Thanksgiving meals] and support summer mobiles,” said Birndorf. “Hunger has devastating effects on our communities, beginning with our children. It takes the support of Detroit’s inner city residents, as well as the families in the surrounding suburban communities to make an impact in our fight against hunger.
In 2016, Higher Hopes! will have provided more than 120,000 pounds of food through the end of November – that’s more than 60,000 complete meals! Their goal is to increase that number by at least 80,000 pounds of food in 2017.
To get involved with Higher Hopes! and their inspiring initiative, visit their website here.