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City News Stories

Posted on: November 23, 2020

1 million pounds of food distributed in community COVID-19 response

United Way food distribution


Despite the lingering pandemic, an army of local community volunteers, government leaders, businesses, nonprofits and others have distributed an estimated 1,032,300 pounds of food to struggling households across the greater Jackson area in recent months.


“If you’re looking for a reason to be thankful, here it is: the can-do spirit of people and organizations uniting together to help our community,” said Ken Toll, President & CEO of United Way of Jackson County (UWJC).


“This collaborative effort shows what can happen when we all work together. Jackson is a City of true grit and resiliency. I am pleased to see these qualities applied to a pandemic food response that’s helped keep countless people safe and healthy,” said City of Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies.


The coordinated effort began in June as part of the Farmers To Families initiative under the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Since then, semitrailers of boxed food and produce have been coming weekly to the Boos Center, United Way’s campus or the former Vermeulen building. Volunteers unload the boxes, sort them for pickup and help load them for area food pantries, which distribute them to households in need. Nationwide, Farmers To Families has provided an estimated 119.9 million food boxes since the pandemic hit.


The COVID-19 crisis has worsened food insecurity everywhere from local towns to entire nations. In 2019, about 10.5% of U.S. households—that’s 13.7 million households—had difficulty getting enough food at some point; since the pandemic hit, that number has more than doubled, according to an estimate by Northwestern University.


On top of supplying food, volunteers have been purchasing, collecting and distributing household essentials—from baby formula and diapers to personal hygiene and sanitizing supplies—across Jackson County since March. That effort, made possible through the Jackson COVID-19 Action Network and United Way’s COVID-19 Response Fund, has delivered more than 230,000 items thus far.


Colleen Sullivan, Community Labor Liaison for UWJC, said the support of volunteers and organizations has been crucial to these efforts.


“The economic effects of the pandemic continue to impact vulnerable families, including working ALICE households,” she said, referencing Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed individuals. “We couldn’t come close to meeting their needs without the many volunteers and organizations that have stepped up.”


In addition to scores of individual volunteers, Sullivan listed the businesses and organizations supporting this work: FP Miller Co.; Miller Trucking and Storage; City of Jackson, including Mayor Derek Dobies, Chief Equity Officer John Willis, and Parks & Recreation staff member Roy Ryan; Michigan State Police Jackson Post; LJ Ross Associates; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 252; Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1095; United Auto Workers; International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers Local 435; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Partial To Girls; Jackson MI Giving Back To The Community; Dungeytreei Heritage Foundation; Oasis of Love; Young People of Purpose; Sacred Heart Chapel; St. John’s United Caring Center; New Hope Church; Church of God; Lily Missions Center; St. Vincent DePaul Society; Harmony Baptist Church; Faith Temple Church of God in Christ; First Presbyterian Church of Jackson; Christ Lutheran Church; James W. Outreach; Grow Jackson; Family Service and Children’s Aid; KSS Enterprises; Angelo Williams; and volunteer leaders Maria Rubio, Laura Stephens, Delia Johnson, Tom Crowe Gary, Cindy Eby and Christine Carlson.


The federal program is expected to continue through December, meaning volunteers are needed each Saturday for unloading trucks and preparing food boxes for pick up. If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Lois Dunning at UWJC,


About United Way of Jackson County

United Way of Jackson County mobilizes people, organizations and funds to create a community rich in opportunities to eliminate poverty and allow all people to achieve financial stability and success. We are committed to helping 5,000 Jackson County residents develop a pathway to financial success by 2025. Visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

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