As the vaccine rollout gains momentum across the country, everyone is hopeful that activities and jobs will begin to pick up after this long-suffering pandemic shutdown. However, right now in Oakland County, Michigan food insecurity continues to be a daunting issue for families struggling to feed their children. A recent article in the independent newsmagazine Downtown clearly tells us food insecurity continues to be dire as we navigate the winter of 2021.
A quote from Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank of Michigan and chair of the Food Security Council, is worth contemplating. “When you’re food insecure, you have one problem. You don’t have two. Your mind is consumed with the idea of what am I going to get my kids to eat, and what am I going to eat? You’re held captive by that toxic stress until you solve it.”
According to Knight, as of January 2021, Michigan’s food insecurity is 19.1 percent, which includes over 600,000 children. In Oakland County, the food insecurity rate has jumped from 10.1 percent of the population prior to COVID-19 to 15.1 percent. Projections, Knight said, indicate that food insecurity will continue to be elevated until June 2022. As such, his network of seven food banks statewide, including Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest in southeast Michigan, plays a critical role in ensuring that those in need have access to food.
I talked to Lauren Burton, Events & Cause Marketing Manager, at Forgotten Harvest this week to check in and find out the priorities for the organization. FH continues to distribute food to families in need through 84 mobile food pantries that work tirelessly through the winter to support folks in need. Volunteers remain needed to work at the Royal Oak, Michigan, distribution center. All the signup information is provided on the FH website www.forgottenharvest.org. Also, it is time to sign up for the annual FH fundraising event featuring a virtual Comedy Evening with Jay Leno on April 22, at 8 p.m. This event has been extremely popular in previous years and a convenient opportunity to donate to FH. Please check out the various sponsorship opportunities on the button provided below.
Importantly, FH will also have a live auction available and is currently looking for donated items. If you’d like to donate, please contact Laura Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org 248-268-7521.
Click here for Sponsorship Opportunities
Building Beds 4 Kids
Related to food insecurity is sleep insecurity. Many families are doubled and tripled up under one roof, and yet feel fortunate that they have a roof. The lack of affordable housing in Oakland County, Michigan, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, is troubling. These severe pockets of poverty and homelessness disproportionately affect children, who are often shuffled around from house to house with no consistency for schooling, particularly harmful now in this pandemic.
Continuing to do their part in helping with this problem is a terrific labor of love organization that I introduced to the 3rd Act community last fall. Building Beds 4 Kids, founded by Sam and Becky Misuraca in Oak Park, Michigan, has a simple but extremely important mission - to provide beds to kids who have no beds.
In collaboration with churches and other organizations, they use an all-volunteer staff and workforce to build and distribute beds, including mattresses and bedding, at absolutely no cost to families in need.
I touched base with Sam Misuraca this week to see how they were dealing with the pandemic and their efforts to provide beds for kids. The good news is that Sam and Becky are continuing to deliver beds to families trying to survive extremely cold temperatures in Michigan this winter. Unfortunately, the pandemic has put on hold the sponsored bed building days due to safety precautions. But he assured me they do have some beds already built to provide to families that have children sleeping on floors or other deplorable conditions. I asked Sam to provide his priorities for the organization for 2021. Aside from the important priority of keeping volunteers safe throughout the bed building process, he mentioned his desire to establish one or two additional Bed Distribution Partnerships, with BB4K providing each with 250 to 300 bed frames a year. These partnerships would help with warehousing and logistical support that would be needed when economic conditions return to some form of normal. In addition, Sam would like to upgrade their woodworking equipment to commercial grade with enhanced dust collection. Importantly, they would like to secure long-term support from philanthropic funders to help with the costs of lumber, mattresses, and other materials. And finally, BB4K is developing a plan for resuming Bed Building Days in 2022, for both open bed builds and sponsored bed builds.
I remain a huge supporter of Sam and Becky’s pay-it-forward effort and
encourage all to consider writing a tax-deductible check to Building Beds 4 Kids.
The mailing address: 14241 West Eleven Mile Road, Oak Park, MI 28237.
Oakland County Task Force
Volunteers continue to be needed for food delivery at Oakland County Task Force on Poverty and Homelessness: Pontiac Food Delivery (signupgenius.com). This program continues every Saturday and I would encourage anyone that is able to step up to please sign up on the tab provided below.
Click here for Volunteer Opportunities Questions should be directed to Kimber Bishop-Yanke, founder: Kids Empowered: On the Move 501 3c. Cell number 248-840-9858.
In summary, there is a lot going on in Michigan and throughout the country. The latest bitter winter storm stretching across the country, reaching south through Texas, is devastating and creating havoc throughout regions, causing power outages and water shortages. Please reach out in any manner you can to help out.
Stay positive and keep a look out for you neighbors in need.
Roger N. Steed