The Secret of Loaves & Fishes Resides in Hard Work


Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes began 40 years ago with a mission to feed the hungry. While many things have changed in the past decades, the fight to end hunger in our community has not. Throughout the years as different disasters hit, the organization adapted to adjust for rising needs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Loaves & Fishes’ innovative spirit and dedication to serving the community has remained consistent, even though this most recent event was a perfect storm of simultaneous crises, explained Executive Director Jennifer Johnson. “It’s not just the economic part of the crisis, but people’s actual health and safety is at risk every day,” said Jennifer. “Their children are at home and can’t receive breakfast and lunch at school anymore, and parents aren’t working as many hours, have been laid off, furloughed, or have lost their job altogether and are waiting for that first unemployment check.”

While the need continues, the staff has been reduced from its typical 20 full-time, part-time, and volunteers to less than half. Through the reduction, Jennifer remains positive, “We got small and efficient very quickly. I think that has always been the case for Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, we’ve been able to adapt and be flexible to whatever is thrown at us.”

The community and local organizations have also been vital during this period by providing support, communication, and donations. Caseworkers and non-profits have provided recommendations for families in need, organizations have donated additional funds, and individuals have dropped off extra food donations. “We have this unique, very grounded, realistic community that understands, at least from my perspective, that food is a basic human right,” said Jennifer. “So, when it’s in need they don’t stop at anything to help provide food, funds, or hands.”

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