Northmen Dens Youth Pantries helps break the cycle of poverty.

In Michigan, 1 in 5 kids struggles in poverty. Here in Petoskey, 1 in 3 children are dealing with hunger daily. In rural areas like Emmet County, parents tend to have less education and are more often underemployed, meaning children in rural areas are at higher risk for living in a low-income family. It only takes three generations of this struggle to create a legacy of poverty. The longer a family is in poverty, the more resources they lose, and it becomes harder to escape.

As a 10th grader, Ellie, visited her High School Northmen Den looking for food. She and several other girls began eating their lunch there with our volunteers. We noticed she had a journal with calculus formulas on pages after pages. She loved NUMBERS! So, our volunteers encouraged her to study math as much as she could.

“It doesn’t take long for a child in middle school, struggling with poverty and especially hunger, to realize they are different: they might smell, don’t dress as nicely as the other kids; don’t participate in extra-curricular activities; or classroom discussions, and so they become invisible. By the time they reach high school, they are forgotten. That’s the true cruelty.”

Kathy Petersen, Northmen Den Executive Director

She applied to one small private Michigan college, and received a full mathematics scholarship! The Northmen Den, our volunteers, and the “lunch girls around the table” had encouraged to follow her passion with numbers. And she did!

This moment is life-changing for Ellie. Because of the encouragement, support and food she received from our volunteers, she was able to break free from the cycle of hunger and poverty. Today, she is a dedicated sophomore college student. We still hear from Ellie on occasion as she sends some of our dedicated volunteers text and ‘hugs’. She has also recently expressed a desire to become a member of the Northern Den Youth Pantries board, to help us reach more students like herself. 

Poverty often traps youth in cycles of hunger, leading to generations of poor nutrition, chronic health problems, lack of education and academic growth and subsequent career struggles. This is why Northmen Dens Youth Pantries exists –  to help break the cycle of poverty. We aim to be an integral part of our children’s lives, children like Ellie, to help nourish our students by providing food, mentoring, and tutoring in a manner that respects dignity and individuality while sustaining dreams.