LANSING, Mich. – Since March, the Michigan National Guard has helped the Food Bank Council of Michigan distribute more than 26 million pounds of food, feeding hundreds of thousands of Michigan families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The National Guard’s involvement has been key to getting more food out to more people throughout this time and they have been such a tremendous help,” says Kath Clark, director of food programs for the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “All of our volunteers do great work, but when the National Guard comes in, they really put their back into it.”
After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order in March, food banks were challenged to find alternative ways to support Michiganders.
“A majority of those working in our food banks are retirees and are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus,” says Clark. “Many of the volunteers decided they were going to follow the order early on, understandably, of course, which left us short-staffed.”
The food bank asked for help from the National Guard via the State Emergency Operations Center.
National Guard support was initiated with 10 to 12 members at each of six food bank distribution sites, in Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Comstock Park, Flint, Pontiac and Royal Oak. Their assistance has helped increase the distribution of resources to families in need by 41%.
“This mission has allowed a unique opportunity to directly apply the skills from my civilian career to a military mission,” said Sgt. Kyle Greenway, 1433rd Engineer Company, Michigan Army National Guard. “I am the noncommissioned officer in charge at the Gleaners Community Food Bank in Pontiac, Michigan, and on the civilian side, I am a manufacturing shipping supervisor in Holland, Michigan.
“By combining good manufacturing practices and the hard work ethic of the Michigan National Guard, my team has been able to increase the output of production at our site by over 300%,“ he said. “This is a testament to the readiness and commitment of the Michigan National Guard to serving our fellow Michiganders in times of need.”