Providing relief for the disaster in Flint

Water donations at Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint.
February 9, 2016
by Kelly Belcher

Have you ever paid attention to the amount of water you use on a daily basis? Of course, we all drink water. The standard rule states that a person should drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. In addition, water is used for cooking, cleaning and bathing – even providing for our pets. Most of us turn on the faucet without a second thought to quality of water we are about to use. But, what if you couldn’t do that? What if the water in your tap was tainted and could not be consumed? That is the situation many residents in Flint, Michigan have been facing for quite some time and a viable solution is not in the near future.

In April 2014, the City of Flint stopped receiving water from Lake Huron, provided by Detroit, and started supplying residents with water from the Flint River. Almost immediately, people began to complain about the taste, color and smell of the new water. For the next year, the complaints continued and intensified despite assurances from local and state government officials that the water was safe to drink. In September of 2015, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center presented disturbing findings of a study that showed increased lead levels in blood tests from Flint children. After confirmation of these findings, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder ordered the distribution of water filters and further tests of the water. 

Shortly thereafter, Flint reconnected to Detroit water. Unfortunately, the damage had been done. The corrosive Flint River water had degraded the pipes in the City’s aging water system. Now lead and copper particles were leaching into the water supply making even the treated Detroit water unsafe to drink.  Between December 14th and January 16th, the City of Flint, the State of Michigan and the Federal Government all declared a state of emergency for Flint.

The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (FBEM) – a member of Feeding America – serves 22 counties and is located in the City of Flint. Throughout this water emergency, FBEM remains committed to a mission that states, “…we advocate and build a community solution to a community problem.” The Food Bank took in the first shipment of six pallets of water on January 7, 2016. Since then FBEM has taken in close to 1,000 pallets of water; over 2 million bottles. Shipments continue to arrive from throughout the United States and Canada. Through the partnership with Feeding America, FBEM has also obtained 42 pallets of Kellogg’s breakfast and snack items to support community volunteers and secured $10,000 grant for the Food Bank from the AbbVie Foundation and Abbvie volunteer support.

The response to this crisis has been both uplifting and overwhelming. From the local United Auto Workers Union to celebrities like Cher and Rihanna, there has been an abundance of support for Flint. The Food Bank is now coordinating with the United Way of Genesee County, the American Red Cross and other partner agencies in Flint to help with receiving and distributing the water.

The Food Bank’s role will not end there. Good nutrition is essential to limit the effects of lead exposure in children, specifically foods that are rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C. The Michigan Milk Producer’s Association and The Kroger Company have already donated 12,000 gallon jugs of milk to the Food Bank.  For the next several years, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan will help supplement the diets of Flint residents with foods that can provide high levels of lead-fighting nutrients. A fund has already been set up to accept donations that will be used for the procurement, transportation and distribution of water and nutritious foods which will help combat elevate lead levels in the human body. To donate to this fund, please visit

*Kelly Belcher is the marketing and communication manager at Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , Disaster Response , Michigan , Food Bank of Eastern Michigan

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