The Father Fred Foundation is working hard to bring nutritious food to families through their Pantry to Pre School program. They are currently in need of monetary support and volunteers for packing delivering and more. Learn how you can support this project and additional Northern Michigan nonprofits featured in our 2021 GIVE issue.
It’s 5 p.m. on a weekday afternoon, and a mom rounds up her preschooler from childcare. In addition to juggling the day’s still-sticky art project, a bag of dirty clothes and an empty lunchbox, she pauses by the door. There, a row of neatly packed bags and boxes await every family, with recipes tucked inside along with all the ingredients necessary to make them. With a sigh of relief, she picks up a box and wrangles everything into her car, knowing tonight’s dinner is taken care of, as well as several more meals and plenty of staples like milk, meat, bread, fruit and veggies to spare.

This heartwarming and helpful program, a.k.a. Pantry to Preschool, is the latest outreach effort by The Father Fred Foundation, which has long been known for its food pantry and efforts to ease food insecurity in the five-county area.

“We are one of the largest food pantries in Northern Michigan and we are fortunate to be able to offer items like milk, dairy, fresh meats and fresh produce,” explains Candice Hamel, executive director of The Father Fred Foundation. “And while we are open to serving absolutely anyone in need within the five-county region, we realized for many families there are barriers to accessing our pantry—work hours, juggling little children or simply having adequate transportation.”

So, when a preschool program approached them looking for ways to support their food-insecure families, The Foundation devised a way to help make their services more family-friendly and accessible for farther-flung neighbors, and Pantry to Preschool was born.

Father Fred volunteers package and pack items to correspond with simple, healthy recipes created by the Michigan State University Extension to help promote good nutrition during developmentally critical years for young children. Bags and boxes also get additional items tucked in for good measure, such as extra fruit or protein.

What started as a pilot program serving 30 Head Start families at one center has blossomed to include six childcare/ preschool centers and 117 families, with more in the works. The ability to reach food insecure families through childcare locations is proving to remove some of the barriers to eating well that so many families face as they try to make ends meet.

The program relies on volunteers to help pack boxes and drive deliveries to local schools and centers, as well as financial donations to help with the purchase of fresh, nutritious foods. To donate your packing prowess or make a financial gift, visit The Father Fred website.

This Article Was First Featured in Northern Michigan GIVE 2021

Read more Northern Michigan nonprofit stories and learn how to donate and volunteer in the free edition of MyNorth GIVE 2021. You can also preview and purchase our digital issues Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine or subscribe and get Traverse delivered to your door each month.

Northern Michigan GIVE 2021 by MyNorth

Photo by MyNorth Media

Photo(s) by Father Fred Foundation