Shiawassee SOARs meal program ‘on hiatus’ after funding dries up

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 6:10 PM EDT
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SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - A Shiawassee County meal program that benefits both restaurants and people in need, now needs your help.

Support Our Area Restaurants, or SOARs has run out of funding, at least for now.

The meal program helped distribute 11,000 meals over the span of 5.5 weeks through 16 participating restaurants at 11 distribution sites. The massive county wide effort to put food on the tables of thousands and keep restaurants in business during the pandemic is on hold.

“If we were able to secure additional funding, with just a week or two’s planning -- we could go ahead and revive the program,” said Shiawassee County YMCA CEO Laura Archer.

Archer says SOARs initial funding was made possible through community donations and a $100,000 grant from the United Way of Genesee and Shiawassee County.

But at 700 meals per day at a cost of $7,000 for each of the three days the program ran per week, funds have dried up.

“The feedback we received from the restaurants was that we could keep our staff aboard, we could pay them, they didn’t have to find another job,” Archer said.

The funding allowed for restaurants to be paid $10 per meal. On the receiving end, anyone who lives in the county can receive a free meal.

Archer says 4 out of 10 people right now looking for food support are looking for it for the first time and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Around 25% of people who received a meal were under 18, 40% were adults and 35% were senior citizens.

Each with a story to tell or a reason for the need, for something so many others take for granted.

“To be able to have those one on one conversations with people, really just hit home to me why we’re doing what we’re doing,” she said.

To donate to Shiawassee SOARs, call the Shiawassee County YMCA at 989-725-8136.

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