Local food pantry seeks GV votes by end of October to receive more funding

Courtesy Photo / kidsfoodbasket.org
The sandwiches the kids make for charity

Courtesy Photo / kidsfoodbasket.org The sandwiches the kids make for charity

Emanuel Johnson

During last year’s Battle of the Valley’s competition, the Grand Valley State University student senate raised $19,229 through T-shirt sales, date auctions, poker tournaments and other activities.

Though it wasn’t enough to overcome rival school Saginaw Valley State University, it was enough to provide food for 2,000 underfed kids in greater Grand Rapids for two weeks through Kids Food Basket.

In a Student Senate meeting Thursday, Christine Letine, fund development and community outreach coordinator for KFB, once again reached out for help, but it was not money she was after. KFB now seeks votes of the Student Senate and the rest of the GVSU community in the Pepsi Refresh Project for $50,000. KFB currently sits in 50th place.

The project allows people to post an idea that will have a positive impact on the community, and users can vote for their favorite ideas to receiving funding. Pepsi offers four categories of awards: $5,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $250,000.

KFB is a volunteer organization, and their community idea is to offer free take-home dinners in greater Grand Rapids school areas where federal food assistance is prevalent.

“It’s corporate dollars that would come into West Michigan and go right into our local kids,” Letine said. “It’s $50,000, so that provides three months of fresh fruits and vegetables for our kids.”

KFB has already begun the program and serves its kids with sack dinners that usually include a sandwich, a fresh fruit, a 100-percent fruit juice and a healthy snack such as a granola bar or trail mix. The dinners cost around $0.90 per sack.

The organization served around 1,800 kids at the time of GVSU’s donation but has ballooned to 3,140 kids since then. Letine said those numbers show the full impact of GVSU’s contribution.

“We have businesses that come out and serve a day and they think that’s a huge accomplishment,” she said. “So for the students to drive that kind of fundraiser and raise that kind of money is amazing.”

The organization operates with only seven staff members and generally garners in around 100 volunteers per day in order to more effectively serve its kids. KFB recently moved to an new building, but Vice Presidnet of Finance Alyssa Tierney recalled her experience before the move.

“It was just four brick walls just stocked with food, and you can see that they’re doing it for the kids, and they have no staff to get any of it done because they want all of the money to go back into it,” she said.

According to the KFB website, Grand Rapids has experienced the largest spike in poverty of any city in the U.S. at 8.9 percent from 2000 to 2008.

“Grand Rapids metropolitan area has a food hardship rate of 19.4 percent, ranking it 34th among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.,” read an information page on the website. “That’s higher than Detroit (18.8 percent) and Chicago (17.4 percent).”

To vote for KFB in the Pepsi Refresh Project, go to www.refresheverything.com, click the $50,000 tab and cast your vote. Voting is open until Oct. 31, and only the top 10 ideas in each category receive funding.

For more information or to volunteer for on-site or off-site opportunities, visit the KFB website at www.kidsfoodbasket.org.

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