When I reflect on the history of the Grand Rapids Food Shelf, which began to serve community members in need back in 1984, I have to think about the thousands of people who have been helped through the last 30 years. The Food Shelf started as a grass roots effort led by a by a group of compassionate and concerned citizens. It exists today as a program of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, and continues to meet the needs of people who, through our program, can access food for free at times when they would not be able to adequately feed themselves or their children without our help. Many feel ashamed that they have to come, and often they choose to leave food items that they are offered, because they believe others may need them more.
Many people do not understand why people need to use a food shelf, or do not believe that hunger is a prevalent problem in our community. To anyone who has a doubt, I invite you to spend a day in the Food Shelf volunteering and talking to clients. They are not “those people”. They are as varied as any group of people can be. Most of them work at least a part time job, sometimes several, and try their best to get by. Still, the money runs out before the month is over, and with many essential bills to pay, there is often nothing left for expensive groceries. Voila – hunger and missed meals!
Volunteers do the bulk of the work it takes to run the Food Shelf and stay open 5 days a week. They are a wonderful group of people who enjoy interacting in caring and positive ways with each and every person who comes through our doors. Clients most always express their sincere gratitude and relief - not only go home with food, but to feel like others care and our willing to help without judgment. After all, life offers no guarantees. Couldn’t any one of us find ourselves in a vulnerable position one day, and be one of “those people”?
Ellen Christmas, Program Manager