COVID-19: Food Bank Council of Michigan Response

Defining reality is the first responsibility of leadership. Here is how the Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) sees the need and the strategy concerning COVID-19. The need will wash over us in the coming weeks.

Wave I – The Innocent

Wave I hit on Monday, March 16, with all schools in the state of Michigan being closed. The FBCM network mobilized under the Unexpected School Closure not dissimilar to the Summer Feeding Service Program (SFFP) and created a drive-through model with pre-packaged boxes and bags that provide up to 40 meals per family distribution and complied with the health safety protocols outlined by Governor Whitmer. FBCM worked with the Michigan Department of Education Office of Health and Nutrition Services to coordinate. MDE acquired a non-congregate waiver for the Unexpected School Closure program. The FBCM network ramped up in less than a week and began to distribute between 40-70% more food the during this initial Wave I, focused on students and their families.

Wave II – The Vulnerable

Wave II – The toughest logistical challenges are our seniors due to their vulnerability, senior services’ reliance on senior volunteers for the delivery of services and the discontinuation of congregate meal service across the state. The FBCM team developed a cross sector partnership with DHHS, the Area Agency on Aging and the Michigan Community Service Commission to deliver Senior Quarantine Boxes from our network warehouses to their door. The Senior Q Box has 22 highly nutritional USDA standard meals and more than 50,000 were made and distributed.

Wave III – The Unexpected

Wave III was defined by specific populations that more than likely never negotiated the emergency food network before, the Unexpected.  These special populations include gig workers, service industry and employees of small businesses. The drive thru distributions are a welcome relief to these residents who’ve done everything right but still find themselves in need of food for their families.

Wave IV – The Indefinite

The 4th WAVE of people are called the Indefinite and they are those left with us to struggle with food insecurity in their homes that although many businesses are re-opening we are not fully operational, although schools bells are beginning to ring many students are not in classrooms, boarding buses or standing in line for breakfast or lunch. Seniors citizens are still making the same calculations to risk a trip to the grocery store or do I make do with what I have as they were months ago.  While many are moving on, back towards normalcy, there are those who are still with us, struggling with food security for an indefinite time.

There will be virtually no break between waves. FBCM fully expects the pandemic itself and its impact to continue for the foreseeable future. When the state re-opens for business, it will take some time for all businesses and employees to rebound. The Food Bank Council and our network will continue to serve the needs of our communities throughout and beyond the pandemic.

The Distribution Model developed for mobile distributions is designed to honor the safety protocols that are currently in place, keep our team members safe and get emergency food to people in need. This drive-through model minimizes interaction, captures required data and gets high-quality food to people in need. If further orders, such as shelter in place, are issued and the needs of senior citizens rise, the FBCM will adjust accordingly. It’s what we do.

This is the framework FBCM is using to determine how best to meet the community’s emerging needs. I hope it is helpful for you to see how this is forming in our minds. Normally, we would ask for your time, talent and treasure in coming alongside of our hungry neighbors. Today, however, I am simply asking for your treasure. We want you to stay safe, but we need your help in getting the necessary funds flowing in order to keep the food flowing to each group represented in our WAVE strategy.

Please click the DONATE COVID-19 button now.

Corporate, business and foundation donors should contact:

Dr. Phil Knight
Executive Director
Food Bank Council of Michigan