In Ionia County, 11.1 % or more than one in ten people live in households characterized by food insecurity according to Feeding America, a national charity fighting hunger. The number is even higher among children in Ionia County where the rate is 14.2% of children do not get enough to eat. These stats while sobering do not necessarily mean what they appear on the surface. A person who is food insecure is defined by the US Department of Agriculture as not having, “access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.”
While the majority (about 80%) of local residents who are food insecure qualify for federal SNAP benefits, such benefits are only temporary and often do not meet the entire need. That’s where local food pantries come in.
Renee Goodman, food pantry coordinator at First Congregational Church (FCC) of Portland said that their pantry builds, “boxes for the families according to the size of the family. They will receive non-perishable along with meat and other frozen staples to make meals for the week.” For those wanting to support their local food pantry, Goodman said that they always are in need of, “either frozen or canned meat items,” as well as monetary donations to purchase items from the Feeding America food bank. The food pantry at FCC does also welcome donations of processed venison from deer hunters. In addition, she said that they always welcome donations of, “dog and cat food... diapers, baby food,” to help meet the needs of all the members of a family in need. Goodman did remind people wishing to donate that they can’t use food items past their expiration date. FCC church secretary, Rachel Pung added that Ionia County has a 211 hotline which can provide a variety of helpful information for people in need of assistance.
Portland is home to three food pantries. At this time of year, many people find themselves in greater need than usual. The holidays are also a time when people are more likely to give to charities. To help our readers access help if they need it and offer help if they are able, we have gathered information on our local food pantries for your reference.