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The Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan Agent Charitable Fund (ACF) has donated $41,400 to seven regional food banks amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The donations will help the food banks continue to meet the increasing demands for food assistance throughout their county service areas.

Mobile food pantries are an integral part Feeding America West Michigan’s effort to provide food to over 284,000 people classified as food insecure in their 40-county service area along the west side of the lower peninsula and across the upper peninsula. (Courtesy, Feeding America West Michigan)

The donations are a result of ACF’s “Fill the Trailer” fundraiser held during the annual Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan Marketing Convention in February where $20,700 was raised in just 24 hours by more than 200 Farm Bureau insurance agents and supporters. This, coupled with a generous match from Farm Bureau Insurance, allowed the ACF to donate $5,914.28 to each of the seven regional food banks throughout Michigan. The food banks are:

• Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (Flint)

• Food Bank of South Central Michigan (Battle Creek)

• Gleaners (Southeastern Michigan) 

• Forgotten Harvest (Oak Park, Detroit) 

• Food Gatherers (Ann Arbor)

• Feeding America West Michigan (Comstock Park)

• Greater Lansing Food Bank (Lansing)

 Tom Biljan is a Farm Bureau Insurance managing partner and sits on the ACF Committee, which provides grants to local schools and nonprofits in support of programs that aim to address food insecurity among children in Michigan. 

Biljan oversaw that Gleaner’s, Forgotten Harvest and Food Gatherer’s food banks received donations.

 “Community involvement is not something you teach for business purposes,” Biljan said. “We have a duty and obligation as human beings to take care of one another, not just in crisis, but especially in crisis. We are fortunate that we are in a position to be able to provide and protect those around us.”

With this donation of close to $42,000, it brings ACF’s donation total to $148,630 since their inception in 2018.

Ben Noyce, a Farm Bureau Insurance agent based in Davison, was instrumental in The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (FBEM) receiving their donation. FBEM serves Genesee County as well, along with 21 additional counties in northeast and central lower Michigan, and the thumb.

“With so many kids relying on breakfast and lunch during the school year, it’s vital this is not interrupted because of the school closings,” Noyce said. “Along with other organizations, ACF is stepping up to help those children in need during this difficult time. We cannot do this on our own; the people of Michigan can come together to help. Not only during this crisis, but in the future as well.”

FBEM utilizes their BackPack Program to provide extra support on weekends for children who receive free or reduced-priced lunches at school by supplying a backpack full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare foods for children to take home on the weekends when school meals are not available. With schools now closed, they’ll look to other methods of getting needed meals to children and adults, as well.

“Our current reality is that closures of schools, businesses, and other institutions that we rely on will continue to disrupt our daily lives and routines,” said Kara Ross, president and CEO of FBEM. 

“Food banks play a critical role in filling gaps for families during emergencies, and support from partners like Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan is vital to our ability to quickly add new and innovative services and resources that gets food directly to people who need it. We are grateful for Farm Bureau Insurance’s support. It allows us to make a tangible, positive impact in the lives of so many of our neighbors in Michigan,” Ross said.

The ACF, whose mission is to end hunger in Michigan, is a donor-designated fund administered through the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. Through grant programs and donations, Farm Bureau agents, clients and partners provide food and educational programs to Michigan residents struggling with hunger and aid the more than 3,000 hunger-relief agencies throughout the state.

There are over 284,000 people who are food insecure in the 40-county service area served by Feeding America West Michigan, stretching south to north in the western Lower Peninsula, and east to west in the Upper. Jodi Fritzsche, a Farm Bureau Insurance regional associate managing partner based in Berrien County, is proud to be among a team of more than 430 agents committed to ending hunger in Michigan.

“Families are trying to navigate work schedules and businesses being shut down while children are also out of school. Knowing where the next meal might come from, especially during such a challenging and unprecedented time, is overwhelming,” Fritzsche said. “Our agents are committed to helping. It’s heart-warming to see how passionate they about contributing to the efforts in combating food insecurity in our local communities.” 

Individuals can make a donation in support of the Agent Charitable Fund at endhungerinmichigan.org.

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