TRAVERSE CITY — The Goodwill Inn soon will offer ready-made meals to those who are hungry and unable to afford a meal.
“If someone shows up, it doesn’t matter what time of day. We’ll have food,” said Brandon Seng, manager of Goodwill’s food programs. “There is no reason for anyone in our community to ever go hungry.”
The Goodwill Inn runs a food pantry with cans and boxes of food that require some kind of kitchen preparation. But many families, often in an emergency situation, have nowhere to cook, Seng said.
The new Emergency Meals program, starting May 1, will replace the food pantry. Meals will be cooked from scratch at the Inn’s licensed kitchen, and then packaged and frozen for distribution.
On a recent night Seng and several volunteers whipped up 200 meals of scalloped potatoes, ham, and green beans. The total meal cost, including packaging, was just 30 cents, Seng said.
Seng said the program means much healthier food than some of its pantry’s highly processed boxed and canned foods. Sample dishes include penne pasta with meat sauce, braised Swiss chard, and sausage and rice jambalaya.
Seng said he’s “absolutely excited” to offer a higher quality of food.
“We’ve got some of the most diverse agriculture anywhere in the country,” he said. “The access to healthy food isn’t a luxury, but almost a right.”
The program takes advantage of Goodwill’s licensed kitchen facility with a six-burner cook top and a 60-gallon tilt skillet. It also makes good use of 4-H livestock purchased at the Northwestern Michigan Fair and donated to Goodwill.
Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan is expected to give Goodwill about 1.5 millions pounds of food this year, much of it donated from area farms, grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants. That food has to be used quickly so it doesn’t go to waste, Seng said.
“If you cook it and freeze it, you can add 12 months to the life of that food,” Seng said.
Meals can be warmed in a microwave, oven or over a hot plate. Families who show up will be provided as many meals as they need, as well as a listing of area food pantries.
Seng said the Goodwill Inn already serves three squares a day to 50 individuals who reside at the Inn. He estimates the Inn will pass out 20 emergency meals each day.
The goal is to provide folks with enough food to get them through to the next open pantry.
“If we can get our folks there for fresh food, we’ll be doing a lot to build community health,” he said.
Seng said community members can help end hunger by hosting a food drive for a pantry closest to their home, or planting an extra row in their garden for the hungry.
The Goodwill Inn is located at 2943 N. Keystone Road.