Emptiness, gnawing, cramping abdominal pain, dizziness, headache and hopelessness – these are only a few of the symptoms of a grievous, albeit completely preventable, condition known as … hunger

Maddie is one of those students who was hungry. As a 7th grader, she came to Northmen Dens looking for help. One Friday, she fell into founder Kathy’s arms, asking for help. Her grandmother had to choose between rent and the electric bill, so her family was living without electricity. As a result, what little food they had in the refrigerator perished. 

Hungry. Maddie was especially hungry and became a weekly visitor to our pantry.  Childhood poverty is one of the greatest obstacles in our communities, and childhood hunger is a painful consequence.

Especially amidst the aftershock of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the wake of widespread school and childcare closures, hunger is reaching new heights. Indeed, the pandemic has only exacerbated the effects of poverty, and our children are suffering greatly. 

In the United States, 4.5 million U.S. children live in extreme poverty, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, meaning they must survive on less than $9 a day. To put this into perspective, a small, white chocolate mocha and a blueberry scone from Starbucks comes to approximately $6.20. That’s more than half the amount a child is expected to live on each day. 

On average, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participants receive $127 per month, which equates to about $4.16 a day, as reported by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. This simply isn’t enough.

With your generous donations, Northmen Den Youth Pantries can provide security, support and nutritious meals for our youth. But we need your continuous help. 

In Emmet County, there are over 1000+ children between the ages of 11 to 18 who are eligible for free or reduced lunch (according to MISchoolData.org). That number does not include the families who have not filed for government assistance: to receive this service, families must complete a complicated verification procedure that includes a 12-step process to confirm eligibility. 

If only “I’m hungry” was enough …

Alanson, Harbor Springs, Pellston and Petoskey have significant student populations requiring free or reduced lunch. In Alanson, 75% of children receive services; in Pellston, 66%; in Harbor Springs, 28%; and in Petoskey, 37%. These are only the percentages of students receiving free or reduced lunches, this does not necessarily reflect the need or actual level of hungry children in our county. 

These shocking numbers are even more devastating when we recognize that it is our children who suffer the most. Children cannot work to “earn” their way out of poverty. There are no easy solutions for those born into extreme need. The truth is, their only option is to come home to empty cabinets and growling tummies, day after day. 

Recent studies reveal that more than 1 in 7 adults with children report their children were not getting enough to eat (this is more than 5 times the pre-pandemic rate).

Our organization is working to make a positive change in the lives of children. Your donation is part of that incredible impact. Through your financial support, you make a direct contribution to children in our community. 

Because of donors like you, Maddie overcame the consequences of hunger and is now successfully pursuing a college degree. Back in 7th grade, we were able to help Maddie’s family by providing non-perishable food items and paying a portion of the bill so her family could store food safely.  

When she was a Senior, she once again came running into the Petoskey Northmen Den. This time, her emotion was not distress, but pure joy. “I got accepted!” she cried. “I got accepted to North Central Michigan College!” She was so excited to tell the volunteers. 

This moment is life-changing for Maddie. 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 are always delighted to see that she still sends texts of gratitude to our devoted staff (“hugs”). She has recently expressed a desire to become a member of the Northern Den Youth Pantries board, despite her full work and school schedules, so she can help us reach more students like herself, and to extend the work and impact of your donations even further by helping other Michigan youth in poverty. 

Poverty often traps people in cycles of hunger, leading to generations of poor nutrition, chronic health problems, lack of education and academic growth and subsequent career struggles. You can help break the cycle. You can be an integral part of our children’s lives – children like Maddie!  

It is because of you and your gifts that this young girl’s life was changed, forever. Her bright future is beautifully and wonderfully made because of you. 

Hunger Hurts. But you can – and you do – make a difference.