Feed the hungry

Mobile food truck will be in Ishpeming Thursday

ISHPEMING — The Feeding America West Michigan mobile food truck is making its way back to the Upper Peninsula next week.

The food truck will be distributing a variety of fresh produce and goods at the Ishpeming VFW parking lot, 310 Bank St., on Thursday, starting at 10 a.m.

The VFW is asking people to bring a sturdy container about the size of a laundry basket and someone to help carry 50 pounds of food if they’re unable.

This food comes from hundreds of farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers that have edible food they can’t sell because of overruns, order errors, misprints and other unexpected occurrences, according to the Feeding America West Michigan website.

“The interesting thing about this program is we’ve been doing it for five years and we’ve never run out of food,” said Ann Trudell, site coordinator. Leftover food from the truck is delivered to local food pantries.

“People always ask me: ‘How am I eligible for this program?'” she said. “We have no income guidelines, no age guidelines. Our thing is if you need food, you come — that’s it. Nobody’s going to ask to look at your ID or anything.”

The only stipulation is that everyone must register before they get food.

“Everyone has to sign because yes, we are dealing with the volunteered donations, but also the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) is giving us produce too,” Trudell said. “We have to find out how many people are in their family, are there veterans, children that are under 18, and senior citizens.”

That data helps Feeding America retain grants and keeps the organization eligible for food programs issued through the government.

Trudell said the VFW and its auxiliary members coordinate the whole program, along with Gauthier Insurance and several local churches which help organize the events.

“When the truck comes up, we have the VFW Auxiliary, Gauthier Insurance — they close their office for that day and come and help — we have five churches that participate in this, and we all get together in the morning and set up the parking lot when the truck comes in. We put tables alongside of it and they unload these mega-pallets (with food on them). They’re humongous,” Trudell said.

Once people have registered and their number is called, they’ll go through a line and pick out their food and then leave.

“It’s just like a fresh food buffet,” Trudell said.

The Feeding American West Michigan food truck will deliver food once a month now that spring weather has arrived. The truck stopped delivering to the area during the winter as the event is currently held outside. Trudell said the organization is looking for an indoor establishment that can host hundreds of people for the winter months.

Around 300 people show up to get items from the mobile food truck, and there are about 25 to 30 volunteers.

“Those 300 people represent about 1,000 people in the area. Each individual comes and picks up for their family,” Trudell said. “We ask people to bring something about the size of a laundry basket. If you have a larger family we will make sure you will leave with additional food.”

Trudell said multiple high school groups have volunteered at the events over the years by helping folks get food to their vehicles, unloading trucks and so on.

“The interesting thing about this program is we usually have it done within two hours,” Trudell said.

Although the VFW doesn’t deliver food to people’s homes, those who have a hard time getting around have had groups deliver them items before.

“We have a group that comes down with about 35 boxes and a truck comes and picks it up. They do the same thing for low-income housing for the county,” Trudell said. “As long as there’s a volunteer group to do it, because we do not deliver since we’re busy enough with what we got, but the more food we can get to the community, the better.”

In 2017, Feeding America West Michigan distributed 26.7 million pounds of food, the equivalent of more than 22 million meals, according to the group’s website.

More than 900 agencies use Feeding America West Michigan to provide food to the nearly half-million people in the group’s service area who struggle with hunger. Feeding America West Michigan developed the mobile food pantry model in 1998, the website states.

For more information visit the FAWM website at www.feedwm.org or call Trudell at 906-486-8080.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal.net.