Roscommon County’s newest food truck hits the road soon with a purpose unlike any other food truck. Funded by a People Award grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation and operated by the Roscommon County United Way, Dish of the Day is a mobile soup kitchen built to help address food insecurity in the county.
In a rural county like Roscommon, having a mobile soup kitchen is necessary because so many people who need assistance might not have the transportation to get to the nearest soup kitchen or food pantry.
“Location is one of the issues we have because we are spread out. All food pantries in this county are open to anyone in the county, but if you don’t have the money for food and you need to go to a food pantry and you live 20 miles away, you probably don’t have the gas money to get there,” said John Sutter, executive director of the We Feed Shop Food Pantry.
By being mobile, Dish of the Day allows organizers to pull up to a spot anywhere in the county there is a need and serve meals. Once the food truck officially starts serving people in March, they will move around the county serving at least one meal per day.
What does the need in Roscommon County look like? According to United for ALICE, the number of people in poverty or who are considered ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) is greater than state averages.
“Who is ALICE? It’s the people in who work in our community, many of them two jobs, and yet because of their circumstances cannot afford basic needs,” said Cherrie Benchley, executive coordinator of the Roscommon County United Way. “I’m talking about food, shelter, clothing and medical coverage for their family.”
Helping people who are struggling to afford their basic needs is a key focus of this United Way. In fact, when they applied for the Consumers Energy Foundation’s People Award grant, they made sure to include other food pantries to maximize their chances of winning the grant and make a greater impact.
For the We Feed Shop Food Pantry, the collaboration will fund a walk-in cooler and freezer that will allow Sutter’s organization to store more food, and in turn serve more people. The Roscommon County Food Pantry will use their share of the grant money to help make their pantry more accessible.
Having a great idea and good support from community partners is key for solving big, entrenched community problems. Benchley was enthused about their grant application but had taken an approach that their first application for a People Award would be a great learning experience, setting them up for success in later years. She did not expect success on their first try.
“In this case, when we reached out to an organization that recognized our need and liked our idea, the Consumers Energy Foundation gave us that money,” said a thankful Benchley.