Our Stories (new page)

Fighting Hunger and Feeding Potential

I met my “Little” Jake*, two years ago when he started coming to our local United Way office every two weeks as part of the Bigs in Business program through Big Brothers Big Sisters. I could tell that he is full of potential; he is polite, well behaved and wise beyond his years. He knew in sixth grade that he wanted to be an electrical engineer – he read somewhere that he’ll make a $70,000 salary doing that, which he reckons will be enough to get his dream car. As his “Big,” my goal is to help him achieve his goals. Naturally, we spend a lot of time talking about school, homework and how to improve his math skills and grades, since we know he’ll need that for his future studies.

This summer, we transitioned our mentorship to being “community based,” so that he and I can participate in activities offered throughout the community. The first time we went out, Jake simply wanted to go out to eat. He’d been eyeballing the new Asian Buffet in town. After we each scarfed down four plates of food, Jake asked for a to-go box. I chuckled a little and asked if he was still hungry after four plates of food. His reply was “I’m full, but my mom and sisters are at home and I’m not sure if they have any dinner tonight.” 

Jake’s family is “food insecure,” which is just a fancy way to say, they struggle with hunger. To what extent they struggle to make ends meet and keep food on the table, I’m still not sure. But I know that when I was in eighth grade, I never had to worry about there being enough food for everyone in my family. I realized that supporting Jake is about more than just his education. If he’s distracted by hunger or worried about his basic needs, how can we expect him to focus in school? If his family isn’t financially stable, what other support does Jake need?

As I enter a new year of mentorship, I know that mentoring Jake is still a great educational support. But it will only be successful if his other needs are taken care of as well.  And making sure that Jake, and kids like him have enough to eat for themselves and their families, is one of the most important needs.  Thankfully, through Kellogg’s support of United Way, we are providing breakfast for Jake each day at school as part of Kellogg’s Breakfasts for Better Days global initiative. His mom has access to financial coaching. His baby sister has access to the health resources she needs to survive and thrive. And Jake has a better chance of reaching his full potential.

Ben Nyhoff
Corporate Relations and Engagement Associate
United Way, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo

*Name changed for privacy.


To learn more about how you can help in the fight against hunger, visit www.openforbreakfast.com/fightinghunger