Nourishing healthy minds and bodies through collaboration and beyond

Kent District Library (KDL) continues its mission to make literacy a vital part of the community's lives, in this case, in partnership with Feeding America West Michigan. Established in 1981, Feeding America West Michigan seeks to make its vision a reality — a vision “in which all neighbors are nourished and empowered within an equitable food system.”

Enriching, nourishing and empowering the minds and bodies of the region, Feeding America West Michigan joins with KDL through its Gather 2 Grow! program.

“This initiative was made possible through KDL's participation in the food security workgroup from the Kent County Essential Needs Task Force,” says KDL’s Community Engagement Manager Sara Proaño.

Fulfilling the Library’s strategic plan pillars of community engagement as well as equity, diversity and inclusion, this collaboration is facilitated through 15 KDL branches as well as its Bookmobile. The Bookmobile, a mobile library, provides an unique opportunity to bring knowledge, resources and engagement directly to those located throughout the community.

“The Bookmobile is able to respond to specific needs of communities considered as food deserts,” says Proaño, including mobile home communities, apartment buildings and other housing developments.   

At these lunches, currently scheduled through Aug. 10, Gather 2 Grow! provides complimentary meals to youth up to age 18 as well as disabled individuals, up to age 26. This program seeks to bridge the gap and assist those in need, including youth that may rely on school breakfast, lunch or meal programs throughout the school year.

Feeding America West Michigan Development and Marketing Director Pattijean McCahill says the organization is “definitely experiencing higher demand than [in] 2022.” Last year, the program experienced a 109% increase in lunches served from 2021, resulting in a total of 26,250 meals being provided, she says. As of July 25, the program has served 15,118 meals, she adds.

Upcoming KDL Gather to Grow! lunches will be taking place at Brookhaven Park, Country Meadows Village and Dutton Mill Village. To learn more about lunch locations, including those in partnership with other organizations, visit Feeding America West Michigan’s website.
In addition to the Gather to Grow! lunches, KDL’s Bookmobile operates and supports patrons throughout their footprint. With a focus on three key principles — portability, accessibility and flexibility — the Bookmobile seeks to expand the Library’s reach by providing a convenient option for those that may have transportation, language, time or even age. 

As it relates to accessibility, the Bookmobile van itself is equipped with a power lift and also offers a wide interior aisle so patrons in wheelchairs can access materials unencumbered. For community members that may not yet have a library card, signing up to receive a card can be accommodated as well. Additionally, library staff may also be able to aid with some technology-related questions.

Organizations are encouraged to reach out to KDL to request and discuss opportunities to partner and have the Bookmobile on-site at free community events that are open to the public. Requests can be submitted here.

To learn more about the Bookmobile's upcoming locations and the Gather 2 Grow program, visit the Kent District Library website or call (616) 784-2007

Literacy Matters is a series focused on the importance of knowledge, community resources seeking to remove barriers to access, and the value of our library systems to society. Literacy Matters is supported by Kent District Library

About Leandra Nisbet: Leandra Nisbet, Owner of Stingray Advisory Group LLC and Co-Owner of Brightwork Marine LLC, has over 15 years of experience in leadership, sales & marketing, and graphic design. She helps businesses grow and assists with: strategic planning, marketing concept development/implementation, risk management, and financial organization. She is actively involved in the community, sitting on several Boards and committees, and has been recognized as one of the 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in Grand Rapids.

Contact Leandra Nisbet by email at [email protected]!
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