EPS assists local families through Feeding America

EVART — Dozens of families who are part of the Evart Public School District have the opportunity to receive free food thanks to a grant which brings thousands of pounds of food to the community.

Feeding America is a food bank which partners with retailers, manufacturers and suppliers to provide food to people in need. Each year, the organization serves approximately 492,100 people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. For EPS families, Feeding America usually provides 5,000 pounds of food to provide 100 families with 50 pounds each. Each shipment is dropped off at Evart Middle School.

"It's an overwhelming feeling of giving," said Evart Middle School Principal Jason O'Dell. "It's great that we can give something like this that can support our families' need here in the community."

However, because of the need, the January truck carried more than 7,000 pounds to feed more families. On the first Thursday of each month, families gather at Evart Middle School to receive their free share. No registration is required, and each month the shipment of food varies. This month, families were able to take home fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, baked goods and more from different area donors, with plastic bags supplied from local businesses.

Volunteers from Evart churches, like David Ladd from Crossroads Community Church, donate their time to open boxes and separate the items into equal parts for easy distribution.

"I'm getting old, and there's a lot of things that I can't do, but I can do this," he said about helping sort donations. "It always feels good to help someone else if at all possible."

Ladd attends the monthly food drop-off as much as he can.

"It makes me feel good when you see a family come in with children and you know they really need the food," he added. "Sometimes you wish you could do this every day."

O'Dell said he's grateful to every volunteer, which also includes school staff and students. Having the grant to bring the Feeding America truck to the district is not only a great way to support families outside of the school building, but also a way to place healthy foods into the mouths of parents and children free of charge.

"We just want to continue giving as much as we can," O'Dell said.