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‘Poverty has no zip code’ -- Thousands of families helped by Downriver food pantry each week

RIVER ROUGE, Mich. – Dozens of volunteers gather at Downriver schools every week to hand out food to an estimated 1,400 families in River Rouge.

Update May 10, 2020: Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 47,138; Death toll now at 4,551

Organizers claim some there are more dispensaries than grocery stores, so they’re bringing food to families in need.

“I came out of poverty, so I clearly understand what that pain is like,” said River Rouge School District director of community affairs Tarence Wheeler. “This is a very stressful time for our high school students. This is just a traumatic event. All you need to know that someone cares about you. My job is to alleviate the nonacademic barriers.”

Every bag filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, canned goods and perishable items.

“Folks who have never been in line before are now finding themselves in a mobile food pantry just trying to get some assistance,” Wheeler said.

The mobile food pantry operates twice a week -- partnering with Forgotten Harvest on Wednesday’s at Ann Visger Elementary School on Jefferson Avenue and partnering with Gleaners on Friday’s at River Rouge High School on Coolidge Highway.

“Poverty is expensive and exhausting,” Wheeler said. “And there was a pandemic of poverty before there was a COVID-19 pandemic.”

At a time when so many families are in need, these neighbors are stepping up and giving back.

“People need to know that folks need help. They need assistance and we’re not judging anybody,” Wheeler said. “I don’t care where you live, where you work at -- poverty has no zip code.”

Wheeler said anyone who needs help out can come. The mobile food pantry starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Ann Visger Elementary School on Jefferson Avenue and 11 a.m. Friday at River Rouge High School on Coolidge Highway.

If you need help, or would like to help out, volunteer or donate, you can contact Wheeler at 313-205-9826.

Anyone who believes they might have coronavirus should follow the CDC guidelines. Michigan.gov has a list of resources available to those concerned about COVID-19.

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