In Plainwell David Steffen (left) and in Otsego Toby Esterline are hosting collection sites for the Hunger Awareness Month food fight. (Photos by Ryan Lewis)

Christian Neighbors marks hunger awareness month 'Food Fight'

Ryan Lewis, Editor

Christian Neighbors wants to get word out during Hunger Awareness Month—what better way than to have a food fight?

Not the messy kind. The kind where the Otsego and Plainwell communities compete to donate the most food and items for the charity’s food pantry.

Community outreach director Kim Shafer said, “Part of our mission is to not only help but also to educate the community on the issues surrounding our clients—and one of the biggest issues is hunger.

“It really does exist right here in Plainwell and Otsego in a fairly large amount and we can all can help fight that.”

Shafer said that in 2018 the nonprofit served $129,930 worth of donated food through its pantry, during 2,895 visits from clients.

“Nearly 12,000 county residents were food insecure last year,” she said. “That’s defined as more about that folks may not be going hungry every day, but it covers if they also have to worry about having enough to eat. Maybe a family doesn’t have enough to feed themselves and their children if they are sick and miss work. Or it’s senior citizens who worry if their Social Security check will cover their food.”

The Food Fight kicked off Monday and will continue through the end of the month. It’s designed to bolster the shelves in the pantry during the summer months, when families struggle to feed children no longer being fed one or two meals during school days.

In the summer, Christian Neighbors gives school-aged kids who visit the pantry an extra two bags of food—called “boost bags”—for each of July and August; each has 10 breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Families are allowed one visit to the pantry per month.

“Last year, we gave out 587 of those bags,” Shafer said. “We did a survey here of clients before summer. One of the questions is do they have enough food in the summer; 72 percent of surveyed the families (of 256 families/households) said they have to ration their food because there’s no school.”

She said more than 1,800 children among both school district qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, but there are others who haven’t applied for it or were too embarrassed to do so.

Those who want to help the charity provide help to as many children as possible—and make a claim on community pride—can drop off items at two locations:

• Toby Esterline Farmers Insurance Agency, 124 E. Allegan St.

• Plainwell: Steffen Family Allstate Agency, 151 N. Main St.

• (or directly at the pantry at 282 12th St., Plainwell)

Shafer said they will calculate a winner in the friendly competition based on the accumulated value of the donations, but the real winner would be the children and those in need.

Financial support can be provided other ways as well:

• text NEIGHBORS to 243725 to donate on mobile phones

• checks may be sent to P.O. Box 53, Plainwell, MI 49080; note “Plainwell” or “Otsego” in the memo line

“Food insecurity is a reality for many families. Our community is not immune to this hardship. Christian Neighbors is here to help,” Shafer said.


Pantry needs

canned soup


pasta sauce



macaroni and cheese


canned tuna or chicken


Children’s boost bag needs

juice boxes


granola bars

peanut butter


cheese crackers

canned pasta

chicken noodle soup

ramen noodles


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