JENISON, Mich. (WOOD) — Sitting in the back corner of a newly renovated office and warehouse is an ordinary office cabinet. It serves as a reminder to the workers who use the building each day of where they began and how far they have come. Thirteen years ago, that cabinet helped start Hand 2 Hand.
The nonprofit works to fight childhood hunger by fighting to end weekend hunger.
Founder and Executive Director Cheri Honderd saw a need in a Jenison elementary school in 2008. Teachers were noticing that some students would show up to class on Mondays tired, sluggish and not ready to learn. They discovered those students weren’t getting the proper nourishment over the weekend.
So out of that cabinet, Honderd worked with a nearby church, three volunteers and helped feed 19 students with weekend food.
Quickly, Honderd and others began to recognize a similar need in more students. Now the organization helps feed more than 8,000 students in more than 230 schools across eight West Michigan counties.
The approach is part of what makes Hand 2 Hand unique. It partners with area churches near the schools. Volunteers take prepacked backpacks filled with food for the weekend and discretely place them in a student’s locker on Thursday evenings so that when Friday comes, that student sees there is a resource to depend on over the weekend. H2H Director of Growth Jodi Joseph says that Friday discovery comes with a sense of relief and joy for students.
While H2H’s growth has taken it all over West Michigan, it could not work toward ending weekend hunger, without the support of Jenison’s families.
“The community just flooded us with resources and they just continue to give, they continue to make an impact and the Jenison community just, I mean, they love their community. The people there are just amazing,” Joseph said. “It’s families, it’s students, it’s just everybody linking arms together. It’s businesses that have just really, just have really made an impact in feeding local kids in their local schools.”
As Hand 2 Hand continues to grow and find more children in need of weekend resources, Joseph says its partnership with Feeding America West Michigan couldn’t be more important.
“Ultimately, anybody that is helping Feeding America with their donations and with monetary donations, we’re all working together, we’re linking arms in the community to ultimately, just feed kids and families over the weekend,” Joseph said.
Joseph says recently, she had a local principal tell her about a kindergartner who told them their stomach at night hurts with hunger. When asked what they did to get it to stop rumbling, the kindergartner replied they go to sleep early.
Hand 2 Hand wants to make sure no child goes to bed to stop the pain of hunger. Learn more about how you can help H2H end weekend hunger here.