The Boyne area has three pantries serving families in need of food assistance: The Seventh Day Adventist Food Pantry and the Boyne City Community Pantry at Trinity Fellowship, both in Boyne City; and the Boyne Valley Pantry in Boyne Falls.
Until recently, there was also a pantry at the Walloon Lake Community Church. Ninety Boyne City families were visiting the church's food pantry on a regular basis. When the pantry closed in January, it created a gap in services for many area families.
The Boyne City pantries are run by small churches who fear there is now more need than they can accommodate. Although they receive support from the community at large, it is a burden for a small congregation, both financially and in terms of volunteers. They also have concerns about the sustainability of their programs, since each pantry relies heavily on one person to manage all aspects of pantry operations.
“If I were to retire and take a step back from the pantry, I’m not sure if there would be someone to take over,” said Jack Dunlop, director of the Seventh Day Adventist pantry. “It’s a big job for a small church.”
Deb Noblett, executive director of The Manna Food Project, and Boyne City resident,
has been discussing these issues with the three pantries and is looking for ways to help them meet the need. Manna works with all of the pantries in Antrim, Charlevoix, and Emmet counties, and notes that Boyne area families are traveling as far as Ellsworth and Harbor Springs for help.
"Manna’s mission is to feed the hungry in northern Michigan," Noblett said. "We want to support the Boyne Community in any way we can to be sure those in need have enough to eat without traveling long distances to receive that support."
The Manna Food Project is a non-profit organization established in 1987 to help feed the hungry in northern Michigan. Manna operates a food bank, a food rescue program, a “Food 4 Kids” Backpack program, and a food pantry. The food bank and food rescue program serve 34 partner agencies (food pantries and soup kitchens) in Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties. For more information about Manna’s programs, see www.mannafoodproject.org.
One question Noblett says Manna gets asked is how to determine need in a community. The United Way recently released the ALICE report for Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties that sheds light on this question. ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These are households that earn more than the U.S. poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county. Combining the poverty and ALICE numbers shows how many households are struggling to meet basic needs.
In Charlevoix County, 13 percent of households are below the poverty level and 25 percent of households are at or below the ALICE level, for a total of 38 percent, or 3,855 households struggling to afford basic needs such as food. For more information on the ALICE report, see www.charemunitedway.org/alice.
Feeding America reports food insecurity rates on their website (www.feedingamerica.org), including data for the local area. Food insecurity is the most broadly-used measure of food deprivation in the United States. The USDA defines food insecurity as “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” According to Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap study, the food insecurity rate in Charlevoix County is 21 percent for children and 13 percent for adults.
"Our pantry works hard and helps feed a lot of people, but I think there is more need than what we can supply,” said Lei (Kipapa) Nahinu of the Boyne Community Pantry. “I see so many families going through difficult times."
"I think our situation in Boyne City could be helped by spreading the burden more broadly and involving more people and organizations in the community," said Dunlop. "Another pantry could help increase access to food assistance in Boyne City. I appreciate Manna's assistance in starting a dialogue toward that end."
"Boyne City is a wonderful, supportive community," Noblett said. "Community members pull together to support those in need, and there is definitely need."
> IF YOU'D LIKE TO HELP - A committee is being formed to explore creating an additional food pantry in Boyne City, with involvement of community members, Manna, and the three existing area pantries. Issues to explore include finding a location for the pantry, as well as volunteers and additional funding. Those interested in joining the exploratory committee or assisting in other ways should call Manna at 231-347-8852.