Volunteers: Fueling Change One Sack Supper at a Time

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

There's a weight associated with doing good work; being a "good person." While I contemplate what that means, I think of my son who's (thankfully) finally asleep right now. My son who has been fed plenty and I know is able to rest because he's gotten enough to eat. He'll be able to wake up and know that his needs will be met. I'm a lucky mom. 

I try to go about my day doing good deeds. Once in a while, I give a few dollars to someone who's run out of gas on the road, donate blood, pick up trash, and volunteer.

Volunteering takes on so many meanings based on experience. In my experience, I've done some incredible things! During my time in college, I worked saving baby sea turtles, addressing border community needs in southern California, assisting with urban renewal and greening projects in large urban cities, and on occasion had the privilege to do local work that connected me to issues I would have never seen on my own. 

One thing I never expected was to wind up at a job in Grand Rapids that showed me how much truth there is that you never know what's happening next door. There is need within our own communities that outweighs anything I may ever be able to comprehend, but I'm trying. Each day, I wake up and go to work alongside 190 volunteers that together, with staff, comprise the most dedicated team of individuals I've ever met working to negate the effects of hunger in a community; a community where we see the full spectrum of both privilege and poverty. A place where there is no blame, but hope for systemic change and a solution, one Sack Supper at a time. 

In the upcoming days and weeks, we want to celebrate with our donors and volunteers who make this possible; who create change. Who see the power of community and come together to rally around those that need a little support. We know the weight of these volunteer tasks can be heavy, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. 

Please join us at an upcoming Appreciation event in your area so we can share with you that the work you're doing is recognized, and that we understand it's not always easy to be a volunteer; to give to a critical mission. There is a weight associated with understanding and placing a conscious effort to address need. But there is one thing we can agree on - it's easy to make a Sack Supper! 

We look forward to celebrating the great year we've had with all of you! 

Nourishing Young Minds

Monday, May 16, 2016

For 16 years, I have had the privilege of working with kindergarten students every day!  Since I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a teacher and now, I get to help my students’ dream of what they want to be when they grow up. Kindergartners have growing, young minds and are eager to learn, help and grow.  If you ask any one of my kindergarten students, they all want to help people when they grow up.  Their aspirations are to be teachers, doctors, nurses and even help people with Kids' Food Basket.  

We were fortunate to be able to take a trip with our second grade buddies to Kids' Food Basket in our community [Holland].  After that experience, several students said, “I want to do this when I grow up.” Kids' Food Basket has helped not only my students have the proper nutrition when they go home, but also to help them see how it helps not only them, but other kids in our community.  

Kids' Food Basket has become a vital part of our entire school.  Our students at Woodside Elementary 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 which builds a positive foundation for the rest of their lives.  


Help ensure our local kids receive proper nutrition so they can do well in school, and in life. Donate online May 16-23 and have your gift matched, dollar for dollar, by a group of generous Kids' Food Basket donors, doubling your positive impact! 

Nourish a dream today!

Powerful Words: Reading Maddi's Fridge at Harrison Park Elementary

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

March was national reading month, and a couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to Harrison Park Elementary as a guest reader in the 1st grade classroom. As I stared at the group of adorable faces looking up at me expectantly from “the reading rug,” it conjured up memories of my excitement for reading as a child.  

Reading is incredibly important for children for the obvious academic reasons; however, it also has effects past test scores and reading levels. Books help teach children life lessons, right from wrong, the power of imagination, and the power of self. For me, it was incredibly impactful to picture myself as the protagonist in a book, especially books that affirmed a positive outlook on my identity. I'm happy that my mom made it a point to read books to me about African American history and culture, iconic people who came before me, and how awesome little black girls are when I was growing up in a predominantly white community with a predominantly white family. Two particular books that I will always love are “Tar Beach” and “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky” about Cassie Lightfoot, a black girl who gets to fly through the sky and learn about segregation, racism, and slavery while helping to save her family and neighborhood. I was learning about history while having fun picturing myself flying along right next to Cassie. 

This is why I’m so proud of Kids’ Food Basket’s Civic Engagement lesson plans and the books that we use to educate. One book in particular that we tend to read often is Maddi’s Fridge, which tells the story of two friends who help each other as one of them experiences poverty and food insecurity. I read Maddi’s Fridge to that group of adorable 1st grade students at Harrison Park. It was amazing to see students’ faces light up as they grasped the concept that being a good friend is also like being a good community member, and only if we all help each other and speak up when we see something wrong, will our community become stronger.

Maddi, whose family is experiencing food insecurity, always wins the race to the top of the climbing wall, but her friend Sophia is faster at climbing the stairs. I like that Maddi is not portrayed as less than because her family does not have enough money or access to the healthy foods that Sophia’s family does. Maddi is an amazing little girl and a fast climber who just happens to be experiencing food insecurity at home. That is powerful for any children who may see their own experience in Maddi’s story. Kids need to know that no matter their background or hardships, they are talented, they are powerful, and they are worth it. 

Because Kids’ Food Basket serves Harrison Park Elementary, it is not a stretch to guess that a few of the students in the classroom identified with Maddi. In fact, during my discussion with the class after reading the book, one girl told me “I’m like Maddi.” I’m not doing my job, if that girl feels less than after hearing Maddi’s Fridge. We talked through why she’s like Maddi – by not always having enough food at home, but also by being really good at something (soccer) like Maddi is good at climbing.

Children build their sense of identity through the many messages they receive. It’s our job to ensure they are positive and empowered messages. I want every child listening to me read to feel just like I did picturing myself flying next to Cassie Lightfoot and Harriet Tubman – powerful.  

Pop-Up Volunteer Project | Spring 2016!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Thank you SO much to everyone who joined us for our first-ever Pop-Up Volunteer Project!

You were part of nearly 500 community members who came together to make an incredble impact for West Michigan kids.

Together, we:

  • Packed over 20,000 baggies combined of trail mix, popcorn, and celery...enough to fill every Sack Supper we serve in Kent County for one night!
  • Decorated over 2,000 Sack Supper bags, providing an extra touch of love so that each child feels cared for.
  • Donated over 500 lbs of food so that children in Flint can have the nutrition they need to learn and live well!

We can't have a strong community without strong kids, and on Sunday, our community took a stand for the 1 in 5 children that are affected by childhood hunger.

We couldn't be more grateful! Stay tuned for the details and location of our next pop-up event. 


Kids' Food Basket

P.S. Don't let your impact end here. Go orange with us this week to raise awareness; host a wishlist drive; or simply learn more about our mission and help spread the word!


It Has to Be Us | Seeing myself in the kids that we serve

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Growing up in the inner city of the Washington DC area, I’ve always known what it was to feel hunger. This is the thing that propelled me to serve in a community that was much like my own, in a positive way. Upon my arrival in Muskegon, I was introduced to a non-profit organization, Community Encompass. The opportunity arose for me to become a summer employee as an AmeriCorps Vista Summer Associate. My responsibilities were to keep count of how many kids were coming daily to eat a sack lunch and also to order the sack lunches. I was responsible for ensuring that each and every kid that came to the Summer Lunch Program, walked away with a balanced meal in their stomachs. I took great pride in that, because in every child’s face I saw the faces of my friends and myself after we’d been fed through our neighborhood food program.

In serving these kids every day, I began to develop relationships with them and some of their parents, which really stirred up my passion for working with youth. I recall a time when I was at a neighborhood gas station and saw one of the kids with his family. He was so excited to see me. He shared with his Granny that we have lunch together every day, and his granny ended up paying for my gas. It was quite a humbling experience. As the summer started to come to an end, I began to search out ways in which I would still be able to be in service to the community, especially with its youth. My team leader with AmeriCorps suggested that I apply for a position with Kids’ Food Basket through the Vista program, and I will admit that at this time I knew very little about what Kids’ Food Basket was about. 

I decided to apply after going online and reading about Kids’ Food Basket and the mission. I had to be a part of what was happening there. There are two things that stick out in my memory - The Girl in the Yellow Dress, a Kids’ Food Basket book, and the documentary entitled, “A Place at the Table.” They both influenced me to decide to apply for the position because I could relate to the characters in them both.

 As I stated in the beginning, I know what it feels like to go to bed hungry, and to feel like you can’t say anything. You feel afraid to ask your parents because maybe they’ve done all that they know to do, and you don’t want to make them feel bad. Or maybe the fear is due to something much darker, like your parents are addicted to some form of drug, and you fear that. For me, those days are gone, but the fear is still relevant. I am fearful that if I don’t care about these kids, who will? I feel that my own history and these kids’ current reality are richly intertwined, and that is why I feel that it had to be me. It has to be us; it must be Kids’ Food Basket.

Falling in Love with Our Community

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I initially fell in love with Holland 3.5 years ago on the shores of Lake Michigan but I never expected to stay. Now, 3.5 years later, I am falling in love all over again and in a completely different way. 

I fell in love with the Holland community on a brisk October Friday when two teenage boys and a parent volunteer showed up with a truck load of donations. They were from Cityside Middle School in Zeeland. During their Spirit Week they hosted a food drive for Kids’ Food Basket and brought in over 720 pounds of food.These kids had rallied together, inspired their friends, and found a way to bring in our largest donation to date. It wasn’t just the amount of food or the way each item would delight and nourish the children who receive our Sack Suppers, it was the pride on the faces of those two teenage boys. 

I fell in love with the Holland community when two employees from Resthaven Maplewoods care facility arrived unexpectedly on a chilly Wednesday in February with 500 decorated bags. They told me of one of their residents, Herb, who had tears in his eyes after hearing our book, "Tony and Julia" read aloud. This World War II veteran takes extra care to write encouraging statements on the bags. My personal favorite is when he writes, “You could be president someday.” 

I fell in love with the Holland community on a balmy Friday afternoon in February when a woman from a local corporation showed up at our door. She saw a Saturday afternoon Facebook post where we mentioned that peanut butter was one of our biggest needs. She got a group of women in her office together and responded to our need with almost 300 pounds of peanut butter. 

I fall in love with the Holland community every day as volunteers and donations come through the door. We have never had to go without or struggle to serve the nearly 600 children their Sack Suppers because someone always shows up to help us make this happen. 

Sending Love: The Kindness of Children Sent through the Mail

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is there anything more beautiful than witnessing the generosity of one’s fellow man?  There is.  It’s witnessing the generosity of a child.

Every day I open the mail for Kids’ Food Basket, and amidst the bills and advertisements, there are always little treasures of kindness waiting to be unearthed.  I want you to see some of the things that I see every day. I hope that they will inspire you as much as they do me!

Do you know what a remittance envelope is?  Six-year-old Jacob didn’t.  When asked why an empty envelope accompanied the Kids’ Food Basket newsletter they had received, his mother explained that it’s the kind of envelope that is sent out so that the recipient can mail it back with a donation inside.   Immediately after hearing this, Jacob went to his bank, took out what was inside, and sent it to Kids’ Food Basket in the remittance envelope.  So amazing, the generosity contained in the heart of a child.

In a similar vein, here’s a note written by a young boy named Max.  His note was accompanied by a donation to Kids’ Food Basket to support the attack on childhood hunger.  Individually, kids aren’t able to give the largest donations.  But perhaps they give their donations with the most heart. 

One thing that kids can share with each other is knowledge.  A dentist’s office puts out brown bags in their waiting room for patients to decorate.  One young artist made this bag.  I didn’t know that apples could clean your teeth!  The child who receives the bag will become just as educated as I about the many healthful properties of apples. Fascinating what one can learn from a decorated brown bag!

Here’s a cute note from a local nanny.  The two thoughtful children under her care told stories with stickers on the brown bags that they decorated.  Most of the bags involved stickers of angry birds in storytelling scenes- hopping over fences, talking to each other.  What a great activity to do with your kids! Plus, it’s a beautiful way for kids to communicate stories to each other without even meeting.  

To conclude, let’s switch gears.  Here’s a beautiful note from the parent of a child who receives Sack Suppers.  Although she was unable to make a financial contribution to Kids’ Food Basket, she decorated a beautiful bag to be given to a Sack Supper recipient.  Maybe you don’t think that a decorated bag is a lot to give, but it means a lot to the child who receives it!

Seeing the good work that kids do is so moving; it’s the best part of my work day.  Despite their limited resources, kids find a way to give so much.  Whether it’s through breaking open their piggy bank, manning lemonade stands, or decorating bags, kids get so excited about the things that they can do for other kids.  They are realizing at a young age how good it feels to give.  Truly, they are role models for us all.  

A Touch of Love: Decorated Sack Suppers Change Lives

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

“They created a job we love to do,” an inmate shares as he shows us a sheet of cartoon characters he uses as inspiration for decorating Sack Supper bags. “It’s therapeutic. We get to have this connection to the real world.”

Over 900 children in Muskegon receive a Sack Supper from Kids' Food Basket every weekday, ensuring that they have the brain food and healthy habits they need to learn and live well. We strive to have every bag decorated, providing an extra touch of love so that each child feels cared for. This means that in Muskegon alone, over 4,500 bags must be decorated each week.

There are certainly weeks when collecting this many decorated bags seems impossible. Every Monday, our staff and Sack Supper packing volunteers in Muskegon are relieved because they know each bag will be decorated. And decorated expertly, thanks to a group of artists currently incarcerated at Muskegon Correctional Facility. 

These artists have been sending decorated Sack Supper bags to Kids’ Food Basket since last October, when they chose Kids’ Food Basket as one of their Facility's Community Projects. It began as a small endeavor. Staff at Muskegon Correctional Facility donated the paper bags, and a group of six inmates decorated them. They also launched a wish list drive to collect 1,000 pudding and/or applesauce cups for Sack Suppers. 

Within two weeks of the request, the inmates and staff were able to supply Kids’ Food Basket with the food and 850 decorated bags. And not just any bags…these Sack Suppers were works of art!

The relationship between Kids' Food Basket and Muskegon Correctional Facility has continued since then, and with phenomenal results. In November, the facility engaged its staff and inmates to raise enough money to help provide nonperishable food items needed for Break Bags – an addition to Sack Suppers that Kids’ Food Basket provides to students over holiday breaks. 

Because inmates make low wages, and many are sending those wages to their families, the prison staff did not expect to raise much money. But then the total count came in…staff and inmates had contributed $1,306.04!

The six artists now involved in Muskegon Correctional Facility’s Sack Supper decorating group donate over 1,000 expertly decorated bags every week – enough to ensure that every child served in Muskegon gets a decorated bag.

“It’s a beautiful way for the kids we serve to start their week,” Muskegon Program Coordinator Lynn Keech says. “We send all the bags out on the same day, ensuring that every child gets an extra touch of love to start the week.”

Lynn accompanied Communications Coordinator Danielle Alexander and weekly Sack Supper-packing volunteer Joel Dulyea to the facility to meet the artists earlier this month. 

Joel volunteers at Kids’ Food Basket with his wife every Monday, when the decorated bags are packed and delivered to three elementary schools in Muskegon. Joel couldn’t wait to meet the artists behind the Sack Supper bags he’d been packing since last fall. 

“Their artwork is truly incredible, so much talent,” Joel shares. 

A retiree and an East Coast transplant, Joel tell us that “Kids’ Food Basket has given [him] a place to be useful. Many people don’t make a place for retirees…Kids’ Food Basket does.” 

While at the facility, Kids’ Food Basket staff asked each of the artists to share where they developed their talent, and why they are involved in this project. One artist shares about his art degree, growing up in Chicago, and drawing during class as a child. Two other artists confess that they both share a love of comic books, and work together on the bags. Another shares that he received a scholarship to Wayne State for art.

Kids’ Food Basket’s Communication Coordinator, Danielle Alexander, shared the following:

By setting up this program, Muskegon Correctional Facility is doing something really innovative and important. Imagine if you’re in prison for ten years, and the whole time you’re there, you never get to do anything that feels worthwhile. The staff at Muskegon Correctional Facility are giving inmates an opportunity to give back, to really accomplish something and make a difference in someone else’s life, despite the fact that they’re incarcerated. It gives them so much confidence, and keeps them connected to their community, which is so important for when they transition back into society. 

While stories are shared, the inmates are hard at work. Some draw the outlines, some shade and color in the drawings, and others write inspirational messages or captions. 

“We work as a team,” one of the artists shares. "Each of us does a different part, depending on what we're good at."

“It’s a privilege,” another shares. “It’s a privilege to give back when I've taken so much."

On the ride back from the correctional facility, Joel shared that while listening to the men speak, he felt a kinship with them.

“A retiree, a prisoner…it’s easy for society to forget that we’re people, too. It’s easy to forget that we can do something, too.”

For more information about decorating Sack Suppers, volunteering at Kids' Food Basket, or this story, please email kidsfoodbasket@kidsfoodbasket.org or call 616-235-4532.


Special thanks (and kudos!) to MCF Special Activities Director Sharon Haner & PC Leeanne Vanslooten for facilitating this project, and to the six artists above, who provide over 1000 children with an extra touch of love each and every Monday in Muskegon.

A Special Celebration Dedicated to Giving Back

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Written by: Tarah Bourke, Development & Communications Coordinator 

At Kids' Food Basket, we get the opportunity to cross paths with some pretty amazing individuals. A few weeks back I took a phone call from a couple. They wanted to volunteer with Kids' Food Basket - that day. I asked if there was a reason why. It was their ninth wedding anniversary and they wanted to dedicate part of their day to giving back. We didn't have any openings in our schedule, but we told them to come anyway. Two extra sets of hands preparing Sack Suppers would be perfectly fine that day. 

A few weeks later we received this kind note from Ace and Jackie Marasigan about why they are so passionate about giving back:

You posed a question: Why did we choose Kids' Food Basket to volunteer our time? 

It’s because we have a 2-year-old, and we love him dearly. My wife and I both grew up in the Philippines with a very different standard of living compared to here in the US. There were periods of time where food was scarce, however, our loving parents always tried to do what they could to put food on the table. 

We, as husband and wife ,decided that our union would best be celebrated through volunteer services. We are blessed – if we compare our lives when we were younger; we are now living the high life! (anything to the way it used to be is the high life). Just like Kids' Food Basket cares about kids, someone was always looking out for us during our hard times, and we want to do the same through this wonderful organization.

We hope to teach our son the same values that our parents and also the community where we grew up taught us: helping others without expectations of a return is a shining light onto the world. 

Maraming Salamat (Thank you very much) – we hope to volunteer again soon, and we plan to bring others that share the same passion.

2015: An Amazing Year of Impact in Review

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A lot happened at Kids' Food Basket in 2015! We are so excited to see the amazing growth and impact made right here in West Michigan. Let us share with you some of the highlights:

1. Opening Kids' Food Basket Holland

Kids' Food Basket Holland Grand Opening

We are overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation Kids' Food Basket friends! Thank you for playing a part in celebrating our Holland Grand Opening today. Special thanks in particular to Peace Lutheran Church for graciously sharing their space, the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area for helping introduce Sack Supper program to Holland, media partners for helping spread the word and all those who attended to share in the fun. We are humbled and inspired by your commitment and excited to call Holland home!

Posted by Kids' Food Basket on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

With the help of the Holland community, Kids’ Food Basket introduced our Sack Supper program at Holland Heights K-7 and Woodside Elementary in May of  2015, where we now serve around 500 students each week day! 

2. Taking Nelson Elementary off of the wait list in Muskegon

The Muskegon community committed to removing Nelson Elementary from the waiting list in Muskegon, and they did it! October 19 marked the first day of service at Nelson and our hearts are bursting with joy knowing that more kids in West Michigan have the nutrition they need to thrive.

3. Go Orange Day 

Our goal with Go Orange Day has always been to simply raise awareness for the 1 in 5 kids affected by hunger through the power of orange, the national color of childhood hunger awareness. This year, each and every one of you - individuals, families, friends and business - have gone above and beyond what we ever imagined. Kids' Food Basket friends, you have proven that together we are a community solution to a community problem! Thank you for your bright smiles, for wearing orange, decorating bags and your immense generosity. YOU provide a touch of love with every Sack Supper! YOU are Kids' Food Basket! 

4. Feast for Kids 

Feast for Kids engaged all who care about children reaching their full potential – in school and in life.
Together, YOU helped us raise an amazing total of $98,250! A huge thank you to the American Culinary Federation Greater Grand Rapids for your commitment to attacking childhood hunger and hosting this special event. A special thanks to our Presenting Sponsor Fifth Third Bank and our facility hosts Noto's. We far surpassed our goal, and we couldn't have done this without your support!

5. Introduction of new foods to the Sack Supper

The Sack Supper has undergone some changes this past year! At Kids' Food Basket we are always looking to improve the nutritional value of our meals as well as providing something the children can look forward to! This year, we have introduced cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, grapes and hard boiled eggs on a consistent basis. We have been hearing some very positive feedback from the kids. 

6. Brown Bag Decorating Day

We had another record breaking year when it came to Brown Bag Decorating Day! YOU decorated 60,524 bags providing the touch of love every child deserves. 

7. Giving Tuesday 

Staff Thank You

West Michigan friends, you made a tremendous stand against childhood hunger on #GivingTuesday. Led by an $8,300 staff match, together as a community we raised over $70,000 for Kids’ Food Basket! Make sure you watch our staff video thanking YOU for your impact!

Posted by Kids' Food Basket on Friday, December 4, 2015

West Michigan friends, you made a tremendous stand against childhood hunger on ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬. Led by an $8,300 staff match, together as a community we raised over $70,000 for Kids’ Food Basket! What does $70,000 do? It’s enough to sponsor 2 of our 39 service schools for an entire school year and summer! With 23 schools on our immediate waiting list in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland, our work has just begun with ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬.

8. Consistently feeding nearly 7,500 kids in our West Michigan Community every weekday

How to Change the World in 28 Seconds

You don't want to miss this! Make sure you watch this awesome video, How to Change the World in 28 Seconds. Share, like and comment! We hope you think it is as cool as we do :)

Posted by Kids' Food Basket on Wednesday, September 30, 2015

We couldn't do it without YOU! Your generosity of your time, talent and treasure are what keeps us moving forward. It is what allows us to open a new location in Holland, take a school off of our waiting list in Muskegon and break numerous records from Brown Bag Decorating Day to Giving Tuesday. Thank you for all you do to attack childhood hunger. We are so excited to spend 2016 with you!