Rick Schelhas

Are you familiar with the term “First World Problems”? You know, when your car seat heaters don’t turn on with your remote car starter and it kind of ruins your day. Or when your favorite movie streams in a format that will only fill 78 inches of your 85 inch TV. (Not sure I can go on living when that happens.) Those are the kind of “problems” some of us actually spend quality time on trying to resolve.

But imagine this. You’re sitting in front of your 85” TV aggravated by the dead space on the top and bottom of the screen. Realizing you’re a little hungry you pause Milo and Stitch and head to the refrigerator. You open the door only to realize there isn’t any food in there. Not to be deterred you head to the pantry. Again, empty! And you suddenly realize, nothing in the fridge or the pantry means there won’t be anything in there for breakfast either. And that little hunger pang in the pit of your stomach grows a little.

This is the reality a large segment of our population faces every day. (Without the big screen TV of course.) According to the Feeding America web site, in 2016 there were 268,125 people in Muskegon, Kent and Ottawa counties alone that are dealing with, what is described as, “Food Insecurity”. Of that number, 9,440 are children in just Muskegon county. The dictionary defines food insecurity as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.”

So many of us have been conditioned to accept the face of hungry kids as those Somalian refugees with the dark skin, distended stomachs and flies landing on their face. We’ve all see the television commercials asking for help for starving children. And while I don’t want to discourage anyone from helping children from anywhere in the world, and let’s face it, there are millions of kids that need our help, you don’t have to look that far. For in our communities, our schools, our neighborhoods and our churches they walk among us. It’s the child with the big brown eyes gazing out the window in the car next to us or maybe three of the four kids waiting at the corner for the school bus in the morning. We don’t see them because they look like us. Unfortunately hunger can be easy to hide.

This year, we at Watkins have decided to connect with Kids’ Food Basket in West Michigan to help with this problem. Kids’ Food Basket’s mission statement is very simple. It reads, “Empowering communities to attack childhood hunger so that young people can learn and live well.” They describe themselves as a grassroots, community solution to childhood hunger. If you have not heard about this wonderful organization I encourage you to go check out their web site at kidsfoodbasket.org. At its core Kids’ Food Basket provides sack suppers to kids in several West Michigan Schools. Kids’ Food Basket delivers sack suppers to schools as part of their safe and consistent environment for children.

Food Insecurity - the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Every Sack Supper contains:
• One serving of fruit
• One serving of vegetables
• One serving of protein
• A healthy snack

We realized very quickly that we wanted to be part of this effort. We are asking each of our employees to remember the hungry kids when they go to the grocery store. Maybe pick up one extra bag of cheese crackers. Or grab a box of Ziploc bags or lunch bags. The list of needs is long and simple. Bulk cheese-its and/or goldfish, bulk pretzels, Cheerios, Nutigrain bars, pudding cups and fruit cups. Pretty simple stuff to throw in your grocery cart and what a difference it makes in a hungry child’s life.  They also encourage participation at their facility to help prepare sack suppers. There are just so many ways to get involved.

We are setting up as a collection location in our store. We will gladly accept any donations of food or money and get it to Kids’ Food Basket. Help us – help Kids’ Food Basket – help the hungry kids of our community.

So when you go to bed tonight and grumble about the fact that the electric blanket didn’t heat up the sheets enough, remember, first world problems are not something everyone has to deal with. Only those of us with full bellies. To the rest, real world problems are something much worse.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. It means a lot to us to know there are people out there interested enough in us and what we do to spend a moment of their time with us. Be sure to enter your email information below to be notified of any and all new posts.

Ways to get involved

Pick up an extra item when shopping.

Have your daycare decorate Lunch Bags

Suggest food or monetary donations at your family Holiday Party

Volunteer time to prepare and pack Sack Suppers

Help deliver sack suppers

Post a call for help on  your social media page