We’re checking in with a grant recipient one year later to learn more about the mobile soup kitchen serving up hot meals across Roscommon County.
A lot can happen in a year--just ask Cherrie Benchley at the Roscommon County United Way (RCUW). Last year at this time, Benchley and Tom Pettit, Grants Coordinator were celebrating their $250,000 People Award grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation and the unveiling of their brand-new food truck. Since then, over 12,000 meals have been served through the Dish of the Day mobile soup kitchen.
This kitchen-on-wheels allows RCUW to further their mission of alleviating food insecurities across the county.
“One major need in Roscommon is transportation,” says Benchley. “We knew we could serve more people if we could go to them instead of them needing to come to us.”
Despite its relatively large geographic footprint, most residents of Roscommon County live in one of three major residential areas. The distance between these areas makes the problem of food insecurity difficult to address through a traditional model. For individuals and families facing hunger, traveling a large distance to receive a meal further impacts their financial strain. That’s where Dish of the Day seeks to help.
The 22 foot long blue and white food truck can be seen serving up hot meals five days a week at convenient locations across the county. The menu varies depending on season and available ingredients. This fall, RCUW has been serving warm and nourishing meals including chili, squash soup and meatloaf.
The need is great in Roscommon County, where 47% of households fall below the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) threshold, according to the latest ALICE Report. These are households that earn less than the basic cost of living for the county, and are either in poverty, or at risk of poverty.
To date, over 948 families have received support through the Dish of the Day program. Monetary donations are appreciated, but never required, to receive a meal.
“The reception and feedback have been wonderful,” says Benchley. “We’ve been able to build a sense of trust and rapport with the community.”
To further increase their impact, RCUW also partners with other organizations committed to alleviating food insecurity. A portion of the grant dollars from RCUW’s People Award have been allocated to support capital investments at local food pantries. In St. Helen, the We Care/We Feed Food Pantry recently utilized this funding to install cooling units at their facility. This allows the organization to accept and store large donations of food and increase their capacity to serve those in need.
Funding from the People Award has also been used to support the Roscommon County Food Pantry through enhancements to make the entrance to the facility ADA accessible.
While serving meals, RCUW staff members are also able to share information about the other programs they offer to Roscommon residents.
“The food truck has provided a new opportunity to do community outreach. Clients see our United Way and 2-1-1 logos on the food truck, and we’re able to answer their questions about our other services. Our Helping ALICE program provides utility and foreclosure assistance,” says Benchley.
The Dish of the Day mobile kitchen has also made an appearance at community events throughout the year including a vintage market, auto show and more. RCUW sells meals at these local events to raise funds to support the mobile soup kitchen.
For a calendar of locations as well as the daily menu, visit https://www.roscommoncountyunitedway.org/dish-of-the-day/.
The Consumers Energy Foundation’s People Awards are one of three signature grant allocations – totaling $1.5 million each year. The People Awards provide as much as $250,000 to two or more nonprofits or municipalities supporting our goal to end poverty and reduce the number of households living below the ALICE threshold in Michigan. Letters of intent are accepted during a defined grant round and the top projects are invited to submit applications for consideration. Learn more at ConsumersEnergy.com/Foundation.