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Bob Randels


Kids’ After School Pack Program

5451 Wayne Road
P.O. Box 408
Battle Creek, Michigan 49016
Over three decades, Bob Randels has watched food banking in Michigan grow from a grass-roots initiative to a cross-state system of well-run, food distribution hubs. The Food Bank of South Central Michigan’s executive director derives satisfaction from his work and continues to develop new ways to supply nutrition to the hungry.     
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Food Bank of South Central Michigan Executive Director Bob Randels: It means encouraging and enlisting others to become engaged in the good work of food banking. To me, being a leader means being able to discern the specific gifts, talents and strengths -- of both individuals and of organizations -- and invite them to participate. It means externally reaching out and trying to invite service clubs, banks, foundations, and individuals to help.
Being a leader means being there, encouraging and enlisting staff to reach out through a variety of vehicles -- whether it is through public speaking, grant-writing, distributing press releases, or writing letters to newspaper editors -- talking up the good ideas.
I dream that that someday we will have reached a critical mass of persistent people in our country who, with the help of hunger studies, hunger research, annual reports, statistics and much more, will no longer tolerate the situation of childhood hunger.

That’s part of my work as a leader.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream for kids is that someday, no child will ever suffer the agony of hunger in this land of abundance.
I dream that that someday we will have reached a critical mass of persistent people in our country who, with the help of hunger studies, hunger research, annual reports, statistics and much more, will no longer tolerate the situation of childhood hunger.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?  
It’s hard to mention just one thing. 
On the practical side and from the perspective of hunger relief work in Michigan, re-instating the Michigan Income Tax Credit for food banks and shelters would help immensely in garnering more resources for our work as well as incentivizing philanthropy for Michigan taxpayers.
Until this year, Michigan taxpayers enjoyed the 50/50 tax credit when they donated to organizations like community foundations, public educational institutions, National Public Radio, and food banks. They got half of their donation back as a tax credit, with a cap of $400. One of the nice things about this credit was that it was one of the few charitable contributions that the middle class and the lower middle class could enjoy and see a tangible benefit.
We have not noticed the impact of this yet, because it’s so new, and obviously the problem is significant, but people still believe in the elimination of hunger and the challenge to feed people and eliminate it.
From a loftier perch, nonprofits would be better if they embraced a more cooperative, collaborative spirit in their networking with one another.
How do you know you’re making progress?
We see progress in a variety of ways: we rely on less government funding because of the generosity of our food partners, with Walmart, Meijer, Kroger, and Ralston Foods being among the biggest.
We have also secured a series of very large grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which is, by far, our most significant benefactor when it comes to capital improvements. The most recent is a sizeable three-year grant that we received from the foundation to support the infrastructure improvements that we have made in the distribution system. Because of this grant, we have been able to dramatically increase our distribution of grocery products to food insecure households; we now have 34
Thirty years ago, people wondered how hunger could be an issue in this country, this land of abundance.
mobile food banks in our eight counties, including six in Battle Creek. Of the 1.5 million pounds of food we distributed last year, 25 percent of that was fresh produce that we were able to procure and deliver. That’s a very impressive increase.
What are you most proud of? 
I am proud to have helped food banking move from being simply a good idea, when I came to the Food Bank of South Central Michigan in 1983, to a widespread plan of action that people really care about and work toward. I am proud that I was able to watch it blossom and become to what it today. That has been very gratifying.
Thirty years ago, people wondered how hunger could be an issue in this country, this land of abundance. I was the food bank’s first executive director. The idea was working in Detroit, Cleveland, Flint and other cities. Because of the number of food manufacturers in Battle Creek, we thought it was a great place to start. 
I’m very proud that, through the concept of food banking, we are not only getting more food to the people who need it, we are also keeping perfectly good food out of landfills.
Let’s say that a machine in a cereal facility malfunctions and there is an overproduction. Other things can happen, too: the product might end up overweight or underweight. Maybe it ended up with too many raisins, or not enough of them. Years ago, before food banking was established, that food might have been wasted. Not now. Our volunteers take that food, re-bag and label it to re-use for the food insecure.
How many of your food bank clients are children? Can you provide more statistics that can help educate the public about the hunger needs in your service area?
Oh, yes. Lots more. We provide service to people in Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Hillsdale, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lenawee, and St. Joseph Counties, and about 34 percent of these household members are children under 17 years old. What’s more, 40 percent of all Food Bank of South Central Michigan adult clients report being in poor or fair health, and we know that 68 percent of all of the households that receive food assistance from us live on incomes below the federal poverty level.
The average household income among all of our clients was $12,440 in 2010.
In a typical year we serve 102,600 individuals through our 285-member agency network in south central Michigan. Overall, there are 133,000 food-insecure individuals in our eight-county service area. That’s a lot of hungry people. 
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Program Profile


  • Food Bank of South Central Michigan
    The mission of the Food Bank of South Central Michigan is to feed hungry people by collecting and distributing food and grocery products, advocating for hunger-relief programs and collaborating with others who address basic human needs.


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