Like most of the other food banks in the Feeding America network, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank is three-quarters through a comprehensive survey of hunger in America. We are conducting face to face interviews with 300 people seeking help at over 30 different places in our region where people go for food assistance. Places like the Grand Rapids Community Café, Brainerd’s Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen, Milaca Area Pantry, Pillager Family Center, Walker Food Shelf, etc.
In addition, all our member hunger relief organizations complete a thorough questionnaire covering everything from how often they are open to how many volunteers they have. The goal is to gather solid statistical information on people seeking hunger relief and the agencies that help them. The information will help Feeding America, Second Harvest and our member agencies to tell our stories; of who we are helping and why they need our help.
I’ve done a few of these face to face interviews myself. I interviewed the mother of a large family who is employed full time but can’t make ends meet on low wages. I talked to many people with big, unpaid health care bills. And not surprisingly, I’ve met several people who just lost their jobs.
The ranks of the recently un-employed are growing and adding to the mix of people who need help feeding their families. In Grand Rapids, the unemployment rate is now at 16.4%. Itasca County is over 12%. It is heartbreaking to listen to the stories of people who have never asked for help before and always thought they could take care of themselves.
The results of this national survey will be released this fall. In the meantime, we listen and gather people’s stories that validate what we already know. People in our communities are hungry. We must help them. We need your help.