A Story of Sack Supper Impact
Vicki Zylstra, a Kids’ Food Basket supporter and volunteer, shares the importance of the Sack Supper:
“On occasion our family is blessed to host children from Bethany Christian Services’ Safe Families program. This church-based ministry provides temporary housing support to children whose parents need a bit of time to get back on their feet during challenging times. This past fall our family hosted two children, both of whom attended Holland Heights Elementary School.
Before the kids took temporary residence with us for a few weeks, they received Sack Suppers each weekday from Kids’ Food Basket. This meal provided them food when food was not a certainty at home. My initial plan was to contact the school and have them simply suspend the meals during their stay with us, as meals would be a certainty at our home each evening. And yet it quickly became clear that these Sack Suppers were much more to the kids than just food. What we learned is that these meals provided the kids with security, stability, and safety.
During the first days of their stay, I would help clean out their backpacks as we prepared for homework. Each day the kids asked where the Sack Suppers would go, and I assured them that the food would be put in the fridge and
that it would be available to them at any time. I realized that I could not suspend the Sack Suppers in their backpacks even though they had a solid meal on the supper table each night. Having the Sack Suppers accessible to them created security and peace of mind. So we kept the great Sack Suppers, kept the bags, kept the security, and kept something simple to them – in a life that, for them, was not simple at all.
I want Kids’ Food Basket’s family to know that you provide so much more than a meal, although that is so very important. The kids that stayed with us had very little stability. This small bag of food was a consistent way to let them know they were loved, cared for, important, and valued. Thank you for what you do. You make a difference, you are an influence, you are a blessing.”
This year, particularly the end of winter, has brought a fair share of new opportunities our way – opportunities that have led us to new ways of ensuring we are able to provide fresh, nourishing meals to children in our community. Thank you for helping us make those meals a daily reality for nearly 8,200 West Michigan children.
You helped us reach thousands of children we serve through a new emergency food distribution system when we were faced with an unprecedented series of consecutive snow days. Thanks to the unwavering trust and support of our community, we were able to serve nutritious food in a safe, accessible way through more than a dozen
emergency sites across West Michigan – an amazing accomplishment we hadn’t yet tackled! The approximately 10,000 meals we served in 3 days proved both the huge community need and the impact of Kids’ Food Basket.
Kids’ Food Basket has always been a community-driven solution for children experiencing food insecurity. As we’ve grown to serving nearly 8,200 children a nutritious Sack Supper each weekday, we have also grown and evolved our approach so that we not only meet a need that exists today, we break down barriers to improve access to healthy foods that will meet the needs of our future generations.
When school is out in the summer, we know there is still a massive need for consistent access to healthy food in our communities. There are over 80,000 children – yes, 80,000 children, in Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa Counties alone who qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches (51,000 in Kent County, 17,000 in Muskegon County and 16,300 in Ottawa County). Our summer Sack Supper service helps thousands of those children receive a healthy, consistent evening meal through school and community programs, but we know we can do more – we have to do more, both for the children we serve and for the children on our waiting list who need us and we can’t yet serve.
We know that access to good, healthy nourishing food has the power to shape lives and change the future. That’s why we believe healthy food is a right – not a privilege – for every child.
Our expansion into urban farming in Grand Rapids and critical farm partnerships in Muskegon and Ottawa Counties, help ensure kids have access to the healthy foods they need in order to thrive this summer. Healthy foods such as snap peas, apples, mini bell peppers, string beans, grapes, berries, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and carrots are all frequently served in our Sack Suppers and can help children enjoy a healthy summer.
I hope you’ll find opportunities, both with Kids’ Food Basket and in your daily lives, to promote the value not only of healthy foods, but of equitable, consistent access to those healthy foods for our entire community. Join us at our farm to see the fresh produce growing in our own backyard, sign up for a volunteer shift to prepare and pack Sack Suppers (all summer!), share our story with your friends, family and coworkers, or consider a gift to help us continue this important work each and every day.
However you choose to support our work, I truly, endlessly thank you. I’m excited for what summer holds for all of us in West Michigan, and for the amazing opportunity to shape thousands of children’s lives with the added
benefit of consistent, healthy food. Thank you for making our world a better place.
PS: As a charitably funded nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of our community to support our critical services.
Thank you for ensuring our local kids have access to the nutrition they need to thrive year-round!
Save the Date!
We can’t wait to celebrate YOU at our annual Volunteer and Donor Appreciation on June 12 from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM at Peace Lutheran Church. Join us for complimentary food, fun, and games. There is something fun for all ages! Click HERE to RSVP.
Community Partner Shout Out
Barber Ford has been a tremendous community partner and advocate for our local kids. They have generously
spent many hours volunteering at Kids’ Food Basket, delivering Sack Suppers, hosting trail mix projects and
fundraising for Kids’ Food Basket. Barber Ford even helped us secure the van that we utilize to deliver Sack
Suppers each weekday to local schools! In addition, they have also participated in our March Community Partner
Challenge, going above and beyond with their generous support. Thank you Barber Ford for ensuring our local kids have the nutrition they need to learn and live well!
March Community Partner Challenge Results
We are so grateful for the 12 teams that joined us for our annual March Community Partner Challenge. This friendly, bracket style competition allows teams within our community to get involved in ways that works best for them. This year, over 3,100 pounds of food and over $18,000 was generously donated, along with decorated bags and dozens of volunteer hours to ensure our local kids have the opportunity to reach their full potential. A huge congratulations to Barber Ford for winning, followed by Home & Company (2nd) and Lakeshore Family Chiropractic (3rd)!
Looking for a unique volunteer opportunity this summer? Kids’ Food Basket will once again be a beneficiary of the Pick for Pantries Program through Ottawa Food, allowing you the opportunity to pick blueberries, strawberries and apples as a fresh fruit option for our Sack Suppers! Specific dates and locations are to be determined, but follow us on Facebook to stay up to date. In the meantime, you can pick blueberries at Bowerman Blueberry Farm located at 15793 James Street and donate them, ensuring our local kids have the nutrition they need to thrive. For more information, contact Jane@KidsFoodBasket.org.
We Need You!
Providing a Sack Supper each weeknight to nearly 1,000 children takes a lot of support from people like you! One of our biggest needs right now is for volunteers to help us prepare and pack our Sack Suppers. To learn more and to sign up, click HERE. Consider putting one of our more needed items on your list the next time you go shopping::
- Snack size zipper lock bags
- Sandwich size zipper lock bags
- Nutra-grain bars
- Bulk raisins
- Fruit cups
Come taste the culinary wonders of West Michigan! Join West Michigan’s most prominent chefs at Chef Prize for a day of mingling, food and fun as we showcase the many flavors of our community. Chef Prize will take place Sunday, September 8 from 12-4 PM at Hampton Green Farm. Tickets will go on sale in June. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Kids’ Food Basket has become a vital part of our entire school. Our students are nourished and fed even when they aren’t in our care. This is so important to help our students be successful not only in school, but to be college, career, and life-ready. Our students can start the day focused on learning instead of hunger. When they are nourished and not having to worry about being fed, they are better able to focus on what they are learning.”
– Corene, Kindergarten Teacher at Woodside Elementary