CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new study conducted by a national hunger relief organization shows hunger is a growing problem in West Michigan and the U.S.
The “Hunger in America” study is conducted every four years by Feeding America. The most recent study found around 492,000 people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula turn to Feeding America food banks and meal service programs to put food on the table. That statistic includes around 58,000 seniors and at least 119,000 children.
“I see this report really as being a case of truth confronting stereotypes,” Feeding America spokesman Andrew Steiner said. “I mean, even us at the food bank, we didn’t realize the scope just of the number of clients we were serving on an annual basis.”
The numbers show that in around 30% of households, at least one adult was employed and 40% had some education beyond high school.
“We think a lot of times about people who are in poverty and we have these images that come to mind of people who are lazy and aren’t trying. This report is just another illustration of how false that is,” Steiner said.
And the report showed 65% of people have to choose between paying for food or paying for medicine or health care.
Edward Stinson of Cedar Springs has been making that choice for a few years since his wife of 32 years began having medical problems in 2008.
“We’ve dealt with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, two open-heart surgeries, lupus and then kidney failure,” said Stinson.
Stinson told 24 Hour News 8 that he went from working a number of jobs to frequently taking trips to the hospital.
“If she needed me to go to the doctor’s appointment or hold her hand at the hospital, everything else was off the table,” said Stinson.
The medical bills began coming in and Stinson couldn’t afford to pay for basic needs, so he turned to North Kent Community Services.
“You would never be able to earn enough money to pay all the expenses that are involved,” Stinson said. “They (NKCS) provide many services that you wouldn’t expect when you first walk in.”
Stinson has been using the facility for over three years to obtain necessities from food to clothing.
He hoped his story would show people how important it is to address the urgency of hunger assistance in the community and help others who may be going through a similar situation.
“All these other things that I mentioned earlier, they kind of help you build a resistance and make you tougher for what may come down the road later, so in a way you can be grateful for those things,” said Stinson.
The Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, located on West River Center Drive in Comstock Park, processes about two million pounds of food per month to help fight hunger.
“That is food that has been donated by farmers, manufacturers, retail stores. And we clean it up, sort it and then send it out to a network of about 1,200 food pantries and soup kitchens around West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula,” Steiner said.
The full Feeding America study can be found on the organization’s website.