Grub 2 Go focuses on local hunger

MARION — A group of volunteers are trying to end child hunger in their community while also teaching good eating habits and smart snacking choices.

Grub 2 Go is an organization that provides weekend food to children with families in need. The meals include pieces from all food groups, but are focused more on nutritious foods like fresh produce and protein.

Project coordinator, Barb Darrigan, said the group’s goal is to encourage healthier snacking and healthy habits that last a lifetime. In addition, they want to spread awareness of local hunger.

“There are always efforts to end hunger outside of the country, but there’s so much we can do right here at home,” Darrigan said.

The 3-year-old organization is supported solely by donations from individuals or local churches. The food items are purchased through Feeding America or Marion’s own Valu Land, which provides low prices for the cause. The items are packed in bags at the Marion food pantry by five teams of volunteers and the bags are delivered to Marion Elementary School classrooms every Friday. The teachers hand out the bags to the students from October to May.

Darrigan said an enrollment form is given to all elementary students at the beginning of each school year. If the family is in need, they are eligible for assistance. Forms are returned to the teacher, and can be returned during any part of the year.

Currently, Grub 2 Go serves about 70 students, but has assisted nearly 90 in the past. The winter and spring months are the time of the year when they see numbers increase, Darrigan added, but the need also can increase and decrease due to other communities around Marion. Other cities’ economies affect theirs.

Cadillac resident Harry Engels is a former school administrator and joined the cause because it hit too close to home for him.

“I’ve watched too many school kids with not enough to eat,” Engels said. “You can’t pick the unemployment rate. You have to deal with what is (happening), and in many cases, the kids don’t have enough to eat.”

He has been a volunteer for two years and said the experience has been a rewarding one and something he wants to continue as long as possible.

“They might receive free breakfast and lunch during the school week, but when Friday night comes around, then what?” he said.

Darrigan said participating in the cause has become a passion for her, especially as a mother and grandmother who also understands the correlation between health, nutrition and knowledge.

“I don’t want to see a child go hungry,” she said. “A hungry child won’t learn well. Our goal is to get the kids fed so they have a chance to learn, grow and be a productive citizen themselves.”

Most recently, Grub 2 Go has begun a partnership with the nonprofit Meceola Children’s Council, which is part of the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund that works through the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District. The Meceola Children’s Council is nonprofit with a mission to address the problems of childhood abuse and neglect in Mecosta and Osceola counties. It also supports schools and students.

“We’re glad they came looking for our help,” said MOISD Early On Coordinator Andrea Strickler. “This is a perfect fit. Any time you have a child that’s hungry and a way to fill that need, of course it’ll help prevent abuse and neglect.”

Under the council, Grub 2 Go will find it easier to qualify for other sources of funding, including local and national grants. In turn, Grub 2 Go provides the Meceola Children’s Council with a representative in the northeast quadrant of Osceola County and can assist with other needs.

Local hunger always is prevalent and the issue is not going away any time soon, Engels said, but he hopes awareness of the problem and of Grub 2 Go will spread.

“I hope the community sees Grub 2 Go as a vital thing and promotes it, donates to it and participates in it,” he added. “I have no doubt the kids appreciate it.”

Donations and volunteers are always welcome. To volunteer for or donate to Grub 2 Go, call Barb Darrigan at (231) 499-5700.