The 40,000-pound gap: Corteva, United Way and partners address food insecurity in Midland County

The way we live, work and relate has changed a bit in 2020, and for many Midland County and Great Lakes Bay Region residents, that need was amplified with the flooding event in May.

While there are numerous examples, both big and small, of neighbors helping neighbors and many ways local organizations, businesses, leaders and even the federal government have stepped in – many gaps still exist and will remain for some time.

One of those examples is that Midland County has experienced a 214 percent increase in the demand for food due to insecurity, with many people and families seeking assistance for the very first time. At least one in three Midland County residents is facing food insecurity.

A safe and socially-distant crew of Corteva employees pack boxes of food.

In the same vein, many of the large-scale events from sports games, to concerts, to volunteer activities have been cancelled across the nation, state and within our own communities.

In that respect, the need has maybe never been greater and the available resources more constrained.

One of those events that fell victim to the constraints of social distancing was the annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive previously organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers, which was cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19. On average, that event secures 40,000 pounds for residents in Midland County.

More than 100 Corteva employees helped on September 16 to pack 1,000 boxes of food.

That amount is estimated to be equivalent to the demand to bridge food-insecure residents in the community through the end of the year, which only accounts for nonperishable food.

That is where local organizations have stepped in.

In partnership, United Way and Corteva have worked closely with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and Hidden Harvest to address food insecurity right here in our backyard.

One in three people is food insecure in Midland County.

As part of the 2020 United Way of Midland County Campaign titled Stronger Together, co-chairs Wallace H. (Wally) Mayton III, Associate Pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church and lead of the Midland Neighboring Project and Sara Eastman, Senior Council at Warner Norcross + Judd, the pantry event was one that hit home.

“Wally and I got the call last year to co-chair this event before we experienced some of the greatest needs Midland County has seen in a long time,” says Eastman. “We know COVID-19 hit all communities hard and then we saw the flood both impact and increase our ALICE population, so there is a tremendous amount of need. This event is a great representation of the overall theme of the 2020 United Way Campaign because of what these organizations are able to accomplish together.”

The United Way of Midland County kicked off the 2020 campaign under the theme of Stronger Together on Monday, September 14 with the goal of raising $4.5 million.

A Corteva employee packs food on a conveyor belt.

“Collaboration is in our DNA and we are thankful to be able to help those in need in such a meaningful way as we all navigate these long-term issues,” says Kali Cochran, Director of Investor Relations for Midland County United Way. “This is one of the many examples people have come together, neighbors helping neighbors in 2020. So far in 2020, over 3,000 people have volunteered for United Way in Midland County and that is inspiring to see.”

As part of the company’s sustainability goals, Corteva Agrisciences has made it a point to help relieve food insecurity directly within the communities in which they operate. As such, the company has made a $200,000 donation to United Way of Midland County and kicked off their own annual United Way donation campaign.

In addition, after launching just days ago, Corteva’s United Way company goal is already more than 30 percent funded and donations will be matched dollar for dollar by Corteva.

The Pantry Packs have 40 pounds of nonperishable food.

Corteva also supported this gap within the community through an event titled ‘Corteva Fills Pantries’. Over 100 employees came out for a day of volunteering to pack 1,000 boxes or ‘Pantry Packs’ with 40 pounds of nonperishable food for people and families in need. Pallets on top of pallets stacked up on modular conveyor belts in a safe and socially distant fashion, all right from the back lot of Dow Diamond.

“We knew there would be needs spanning the short and long term with all the challenges that 2020 has shown us,” says Sarah Brooks, Sites and Communications Manager for Corteva. “We are honored to be in a place to help both financially, logistically and personally, right down to employees packing boxes for those in need. Additionally, we are thankful for all the wonderful partners in this process in the United Way of Midland County, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and Hidden Harvest.”

Pantry Packs will be distributed throughout the fall with the help of Hidden Harvest.

The event also supports another one of Corteva’s sustainability goals to have employees donate at least 1 million volunteer hours by 2030.

If you or someone you know is in need, reach out to 211 to learn how you can get food assistance and other aid:

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Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. She ran Catalyst Midland as the publication's managing editor from October 2017 through September 2020. Her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner.