by Zinta Aistars
Originally published in Rapid Growth Media, March 14, 2013
Picked up by Huffington Post, March 21, 2013
Bridget Clark Whitney at KFB (Photo by Adam Bird)
Kids' Food Basket: Grand Rapids Nonprofit Feeding Hungry Children Celebrates 10 Years
Ten years ago, children were caught digging through the dumpster behind a Grand Rapids elementary school. Troublemakers? No. They were looking for food. They were hungry.
Mary K. Hoodhood saw the children, asked the questions, got the answers, and didn't settle for what she heard. What she learned was that for these children, the food they found in the trash was all they might get to eat when they went home after the school day was done. That year, 2003, Hoodhood started a program called Kids' Food Basket, packing nutritious meals in paper sacks and delivering 125 of these sack suppers to children at three sites, including the school where she had seen the children digging through trash.
Ten years later, 2013, Kids' Food Basket (KFB) is delivering sack suppers to 5,100 children at 36 schools in greater Grand Rapids and its newest satellite in Muskegon. In 2010, in fact, Hoodhood received the Presidential Citizen's Medal from President Obama for her work with KFB. It's cause for a celebration.
"We are celebrating our community," says Ashley Abbott, fund development and community outreach coordinator at Kids' Food Basket. "It's our community that has made us what we are."
The Family Gala to mark the organization's first decade will be held on June 8, from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Aquinas College, and will include food, festivities, and entertainment for the family. Tickets go on sale April 1 at www.kidsfoodbasket.org/10year.
Bridget Clark Whitney, executive director, was a part of the organization nearly from its inception. "Ten years," she says. "That's 10 years of impact, 10 years of kids who rely on us for food, 10 years of creating a brighter future."
Entering the building at 2055 Oak Industrial Drive in Grand Rapids, the enthusiasm to make a difference is instantly evident. Cardboard boxes heaping with food items fill nearly every space, floor to ceiling. Lined up at sloping tables, 175 volunteers, coming and going in short shifts throughout the day, are packing lunches. At one section, trail mix is being mixed and measured into plastic bags. At another, meat and cheese sandwiches are being assembled. Pieces of fruit rattle into the sacks at yet another area. A volunteer pushes a dolly packed with boxes of sacks to the loading dock, called Norm's Alley to honor a long-time volunteer who passed away form cancer. Another volunteer pulls up to pick up and deliver the meals to schools.
"I can tell you a lot of stories about the children who receive those sack suppers," says Whitney. "There's the little girl who ...."