Michiganders continue to face hunger this summer. Here’s how you can help.

Gleaners volunteers. (Image provided by Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.)

Summer is upon us, and for many Michiganders, picturesque images of warm weather, clear blue skies, sparkling lakes and summer vacations come to mind.

However, for one in six people -- and one in five children -- across southeast Michigan, the summer months can magnify an issue that negatively impacts every facet of day-to-day life: hunger.

Summer has always been a difficult time for families and children facing hunger, but last year, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the demand for emergency food resources to skyrocket. Working parents faced layoffs and furloughs, as the cost of groceries increased significantly, and while others struggled to find safe, easily accessible ways to get groceries.

While this year offers new signs of hope, far too many children, families, seniors, veterans, low-income medical patients and other vulnerable groups are still struggling to get back on their feet. A major part of that includes gaining access to balanced, nutritious food. But a community initiative is offering hope.

From June through August, Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan is expanding and adapting efforts to make it a hunger-free summer for residents in need, especially children.

“At Gleaners, we believe hunger can be solved, and our incredible partners and community members are enabling us to do just that,” said Gerry Brisson, president and CEO of Gleaners. “Through our Hunger Free Summer Plus campaign, all donations will be matched by Citizens Bank and a group of generous donors. We are so grateful for their continued support and for making a difference in the lives of our hungry neighbors.”

Hunger Free Summer Plus comes at a crucial moment in time for families with children, as school is preparing to go on summer break. Many parents are left wondering how they will be able to put food on the table, especially when typical food assistance programs are not available on nights and weekends, and childcare and transportation may be added challenges.

Hunger is often considered to be an invisible issue, leaving behind many to suffer alone in silence -- especially children and other vulnerable groups who have little to no control when it comes to meeting their basic needs. Because of that, Gleaners works closely with community groups and partners to identify people who are at the greatest risk of facing hunger.

Strategic collaboration with schools, health care providers, veteran organizations, senior-specific agencies, donors and other partners are instrumental in providing services to those who need it most.

Much of the food Gleaners distributes is purchased at a discounted rate, making support from donors and partners an essential part of sustaining operations to get more food into the community.

Joining Gleaners’ longtime Hunger Free Summer underwriting partner and match donor, Citizens Bank, are several new donor partners who are adopting hunger as a new cause in their charitable giving efforts this past year: the Mandell and Madeleine Berman Foundation and Aramco Americas.

The generous new donors will help power Gleaners’ ability to serve hungry neighbors efficiently and effectively across Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties.

In response to Citizens’ dedication to Hunger Free Summer, Karen Minghine-Hagenian, executive vice president and director of Retail Banking for Citizens, said, “We know summer is a critical time for families and children, and we’re proud to give our continued support to help stabilize households over these important months. When we work together toward a common goal, we achieve great things. We look forward to helping overcome food insecurity through the Hunger Free Summer Plus campaign, in collaboration with Gleaners and our wonderful community.”

Aramco, which plays an active role through donations and volunteerism, recognized the vital role food banks play in stabilizing households, and as part of the company’s response to the pandemic, Aramco has made a donation that will provide Gleaners with resources to help ensure hungry residents, especially children, have one less worry this summer.

Food insecurity is an issue that is important to both companies and individuals, and Gleaners makes it easy and convenient for anyone to make a positive impact in their community. With the introduction of Virtual Food and Fund Drives, Gleaners offers users a convenient way to donate an amount of their choice, or to virtually shop for food items.

Gleaners’ Hunger Free Summer Plus Food Fight is running the Virtual Food and Fund Drive, which invites businesses to compete to raise the most meals. In 2020 alone, 45 dedicated teams raised a combined total of more than $95,000, which provided 570,000 nutritious meals to residents facing food insecurity.

This year’s virtual Food Fight will take place from July 19 to Aug. 31.

In order to achieve a hunger free summer in southeast Michigan, Gleaners and its partners are calling upon the community for help. Every dollar donated to Gleaners’ Hunger Free Summer Plus initiatives from June through August will provide six meals for children, families, seniors, veterans and other vulnerable neighbors who are facing food insecurity.

For more information, or to make a donation, click or tap here.