DETROIT (WJBK) - In Michigan, one in five children face going hungry every day and more than 300,000 children receive free or reduced lunches. Think about what that means for parents when those kids get home from school. It's a problem in all of our communities, even if you don't see it.
Katie Kirkpatrick is one of those parents trying keep it all together and keeping her family fed. She's a single mother of four kids, working four jobs. Her work week is 96 hours long and, even then, she struggled to make ends meet.
"It was almost impossible to pay bills and put food on the table," she says.
Katie worked as a bus driver for one school, a bus driver for another school, a limo driver, and a waitress. Then, she got a tip from a friend that changed her life and opened her eyes.
"At one of my jobs driving a school bus, the food nutrition director pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, did you know about the Gleaners truck that comes right here to L'Anse Creuse? And I said 'no', she said, 'why don't you get your name on this list and then show up on Wednesday'," Katie says.
They loaded her van with boxes and boxes of food.
"When I pulled up, I was scared; I was humiliated; embarrassed. And then my door opened and I got hugs, I was welcomed and they filled my van with food. And I took it home and my kids thought it was Thanksgiving day.
"It was one less thing I had to worry about, and they were so happy there was no more ramen casserole. They were so grateful. As a mom, being able to feed my kids and know they're happy and content and grateful, it's comforting. Really, it takes a village to raise a family and Gleaners is one of the most important part of my village."
Katie was invited to Thursday's Women's Power Breakfast, an annual Gleaners event that brings together female leaders working to end hunger in the community. The event at Little Caesars Arena was an eye-opening experience fro Katie.
"Being a part of it, I never saw myself as a strong woman. And I look and I see how many other women struggle and work so hard. I don't wish that upon anybody but I do wish that strength to every woman. Events like this are beyond important because so many people go without, and kids go hungry to school and they come home hungry and it's not fair. No matter how hard some of us work, it just isn't enough. So, events like this, it's not just fun and fancy - it saves lives. It makes people feel wanted and loved and important," she says.
Gleaners is headquartered in Detroit and operates five distribution centers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties. It provides food to nearly 500 soup kitchens, pantries, shelters and other agencies. On average, Gleaners distributes 89,000 meals each day.
Every dollar donated provides three meals, and 97 cents of every donated dollar goes to food and food programs.
Next Tuesday, April 24, is a Double Your Donation day with Gleaners. That means your donations will go twice as far. For more information on Gleaners services, or to make a donation, visit www.gcfb.org.