ISHPEMING - The Ishpeming Knights of Columbus presented a check for $2,000 to the Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank in Ishpeming Monday.
"There's always a need for help in the area," said Grand Knight Ralph Quayle. "As Knights we're just glad to do our small part to help out."
Mason said that cuts to state and federal funding for food assistance to individuals and families has already had significant consequences in the area.
Jeff Bess stocks shelves with canned goods and other food items at the Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank food pantry in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
"Essentially what it's done is it has increased our volume of traffic probably easily 10 to 20 percent," he said.
Mason and Knights of Columbus member Clifford Trudell said that lawmakers are making cuts in the wrong areas and end up hurting the people who most need help.
"Money is becoming a lot tighter," Trudell said. "We're not out of the woods by far yet, and when you cut the food stamps you just tell people that you don't have to eat so much, and that's not right."
The West Michigan Food Bank gives out 250,000 pounds of food annually to some 90 area food pantries. It also has its own pantry, which Mason said is unique for a food bank.
"We're kind of a pilot project like that," he said. "We were kind of the first kids on the block to take a food bank and actually put a food pantry inside it."
The food bank has what Mason called "a huge network" of vendors who donate food, enabling the bank to offer the food to area pantries for a nominal "handling fee" of 16 cents per pound.
"If you were to go buy at the grocery store, the national average is about $2.17 a pound for food," Mason said. He said the handling fee covers the costs of properly transporting and storing the food, as well as general expenses and the salaries of the food bank's several employees.
For those looking to help those in need, Mason said that the biggest way to help is with a monetary contribution, though people also can and often do volunteer their time.
"All you've got to do is volunteer for some of these places where you're getting into it," Trudell said. "Then you get to see there is a lot more to it than the average person sees."
Trudell said that although the Knights of Columbus is a religious organization, those kinds of divisions don't really matter with something as essential as food.
"It doesn't matter what religion you are," he said. "We're a Catholic organization, but when it comes to eating, we don't care."
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.