In its inaugural year, Cloverland Cares distributed three scholarships and three grants to food banks in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Funds generated from members who opt-in to round up their monthly bills go directly to Cloverland Cares to give back to the communities served by Cloverland Electric Cooperative.
One 2021 grant recipient is the St. Ignace Food Pack. Six years ago, Diggy Clement and Dave Kunz recognized a great need to provide food on weekends and school breaks to local kids suffering from food insecurity.
According to Kunz, the need for food assistance is huge. Nationally, more than 10 percent of families suffer varying degrees of hunger. In Michigan 1 in 7 students face hunger issues.
The St. Ignace Food Pack was created as a federally recognized 501(c)3 charitable organization comprised of volunteers and a board of directors. They utilize a middle school for food storage and packing. Various local groups – from the Masons, church groups, bank and credit union staff – pack food and distribute it to students for the weekend.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, the Food Pack approached the superintendent and coordinated a plan to continue to supply food packs. With a bus and driver donated by the school, food packs were delivered by volunteers, which included the superintendent and middle school principal, among others.
The pandemic created other challenges since typical food items could not be ordered in high quantities or were unavailable, which caused higher food costs. They focus on wholesome, nutritious foods that do not require refrigeration or has sufficient shelf life.
Another challenge for the Food Pack is stigma among high school students who may avoid taking food packs because of social sensitivity. To address this issue, the Food Pack is planning a weekly “food bank” at the high school. Students would check boxes on available items they need on a prepared “shopping list.” Volunteers will compile orders and students can pick them up after school. This plan allows them to expand into personal hygiene items also.
“The financial support given to us by Cloverland Cares is important as the Food Pack operates entirely on donations,” said Kunz.
The Food Pack’s dedicated group of volunteers share operating expenses – such as postage and printing – which allows every cent from donations to support food purchases.
Cloverland Cares also donated to the United Way E.U.P.’s mobile food distribution in Sault Ste. Marie (district B). The foundation welcomes grant requests for food banks in district C, which includes Newberry and Manistique. Grant applications are available at Cloverland.com/cares.
By Allie Brawley