March Study Session at the Father Fred Foundation

Story by Maddy Baroli

For the Network’s March study session, we took a trip to the Father Fred Foundation. Father Fred has been serving our region since 1989 and provides basic food, clothing, housing and financial assistance at no charge. With light staffing (six full-time and two part-time) and the help of 225 active volunteers, they can invest 93 cents of every dollar donated in guest services (wow!)


The group explores Father Fred’s food pantry. An abundant fresh food section meant to imitate a farmer’s market is featured right where guests walk in.

Providing access to quality food has become a focal point at Father Fred. Operations Director Les Hagaman has been leading the way in promoting healthy food at their pantry— from educational signage and smart choices about what to stock, to an on-site vegetable garden originally planted by local Foodcorps members.

After an introduction and tour led by capable Volunteer Coordinator, Sue Bauer, our group of 10 packed bags for the Blessings in a Backpack Program. This service provides food for school kids in danger of going hungry over the weekend. Students are given a special backpack in the beginning of the year that gets restocked every Friday. A variety of partnering organizations serve particular counties; Father Fred is in charge of the schools in Grand Traverse County and is expanding to Kalkaska County. In total, we packed 343 bags with snacks such as oatmeal, mac’n’cheese, oranges, crackers, and applesauce.

As usual, this study session provided a nice opportunity for chit-chat and new connections. I connected with two young ladies who have just begun working as the new Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program technicians at the Conservation District, and they are excited to get more involved with our network.

We all came away much more knowledgeable about the wonderful services that the Father Fred Foundation provides to our community, and want to give them a big thank you for doing it in a loving, respectful, and nondiscriminatory manner. Until next time!

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If you are interested in attending Food and Farming Network Study Sessions, please contact me at or sign up for our newsletter. Study sessions happen every other month on the third Wednesday, from 10:30AM-12PM. The next one will be on May 17th and will feature a visit to a protected farm with local conservation experts.


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