Food Bank of Eastern Michigan leans on military to meet massive needs

The food bank says support from the Michigan National Guard is crucial to meet its massive needs
Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 5:38 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer again is asking President Donald Trump to extend the Michigan National Guard’s COVID-19 assistance mission.

She said the National Guard remains a crucial part of the state’s response to the pandemic. The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan says keeping up with demand may be difficult if the extension is not approved.

“The food insecurity rate in our 22 counties is usually around 14% to 19%. During the pandemic that’s been close to 40%,” said Patrick Hayes, who represents the food bank. “Since mid-March we’re up to 35 million pounds of food that we’ve distributed.”

Most of that work is being done by dozens of members from the Michigan National Guard.

“That’s everything from sorting and processing the bulk foods, getting it ready to go out to distribution sites, putting together nutrition boxes for our senior box program,” Hayes said.

The Michigan National Guard’s mission currently is scheduled to end on Dec. 31. Whitmer is asking for an extension through March 31, which the food bank supports.

The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan says meeting the community’s needs would be extremely difficult without the National Guard, because the organization is limiting who can come into the building during the coronavirus pandemic, including volunteers.

“We’re just going to see a need for food this winter like never before,” Hayes said. “And to rely on the National Guard to help get us through that, it would really be vital for us to be able to keep doing what were doing.”

In addition to working with food banks across the state, the Michigan National Guard has been performing widespread COVID-19 testing and distributing personal protective equipment since the start of the pandemic.

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