Graduate Programs

Blogs from students, faculty & staff

Like most students, I am used to juggling. I have mastered the skill of prioritizing. I rely heavily on caffeine and I can multitask with the best of them. Before COVID-19 hit the United States, I was managing being a mother, a student and 60 plus hour work weeks spread over two jobs.

With the stay-at-home orders that were put in place, I lost my second job as a weekend bartender and classes at UM-Flint went strictly online.  I was asked to work from home for my day job at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. I am the Outreach Coordinator for Genesee County, and as far as I am concerned I have one of the best jobs you could have. I have a strong desire to combat food insecurity and I enjoy serving the people of Flint and the surrounding communities as well. I received my bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in nutrition and after a couple of years at the Food Bank, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health. My studies thus far have lent a new understanding to the issues the people of Flint, and now the rest of the country are facing.

There is nothing that could have prepared us for what was about to happen. The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan is an essential service and we have risen to the occasion. This type of work is what we specialize in, but it has not been easy with 25% unemployment in Michigan. There is more need than we have ever seen: in the first six weeks of the crisis, we distributed 2.67 million more pounds of food than the same time frame last year. This has not been an easy task because our food donations are down due to supply chain issues. Many do not know that the Food Bank in Flint serves 22 counties in Michigan. At this point, we are sending food trucks to every county, averaging more than 50 trucks a week. This equates to 4.8 million meals for those in need during this desperate time. With help from community partners such as the United Way, MTA, the Mott Foundation and the Genesee County Task force we have been able to get nourishment to those struggling to make ends meet.

I also run a food rescue program called “Middle Mile.” FBEM has partnered with Mac Pizza, better known as Little Caesars. Twenty stores donate on a daily basis and we organize volunteer drivers to pick up leftover pizza and deliver it to shelters and soup kitchens.

Like everyone, I am looking forward to a return of normalcy. I want to go to concerts. I want to see my friends and family. I am unsure of what the future “normal” looks like. In the meantime, I will continue to stay safe, try to stay healthy and help people with a basic need, food.

Kelly DelReal is an MPH student from Grand Blanc.