This National Volunteer Week, we’d be remiss if we did not recognize and thank our amazing volunteers for the energy and passion they bring each time they give their time to The Pantry. Did you know that The Pantry only has two paid staff members? With each volunteer hour being valued at $23 by the Independent Sector, we could not keep The Pantry doors open without all of you.
Our volunteers help us in so many different ways. From seamlessly checking in our neighbors and taking them shopping through the pantry, to restocking the shelves and hosting food and personal care drives, to picking up donations from our partners around town- our volunteers are truly the heartbeat of our organization!
Reasons for volunteering are different for everyone, yet the aim is still the same- to help the community in which they live. Some are called to action because they have a deep connection to their community, or because they believe is social justice and health equity. Some have even walked in the shoes of our neighbors, and want to help others on their journey. Though the motivation of our volunteers may differ, their hearts work together for a healthier, hunger free Kent County.
Do you want to get involved? We are always looking for help during pantry hours. We’re also searching for enthusiastic folks to to serve on our committees. If you have a group looking for a night of service, we’d love to put you to work! Email Yoli, our Pantry Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our volunteer opportunities. We’ll help you find the right fit!
A great way to get to know us better is just around the corner. Join our team at the 40th Annual Access Hunger Walk on Sunday, May 7 – we’re looking for more people to walk with The Pantry team! Learn more and sign up here: http://thepantry.gr/40th-annual-hunger-walk/ #HungerWalkGR
Again, a big thank you to The Pantry volunteers who make our programs, services, and change in the community possible! Also, a big thank you to everyone who donates their time to help those around them.
You are the heart, you are the change!
What an amazing year we’ve had at The Pantry! We were very busy and very productive. In 2016, The Pantry served roughly 30,000 people a week’s groceries, enough food for 630,000 meals. Through a partnership with the USDA and ASCET, a quarterly distribution of roughly 50 pounds of food was distributed to around 10,000 additional individuals. At the holidays 3,750 people received holiday meal groceries and/or toys. Individuals with chronic illnesses received 14,000 meals from groceries aimed specifically at maintaining their health and wellness through our NOW pantry (Nutritional Options for Wellness), a partnership with Access of WMi and Spectrum Health. Over 13,000 meals were given to seniors living in neighboring senior apartments through a partnership with ASCET. Our new Senior Pantry, which opened in the last quarter of the year, gave over 150 seniors the groceries for almost 3,500 meals. The Senior Pantry is a partnership with Senior Meals and aims to reduce the need for local seniors to travel to the senior pantry on the north end of Grand Rapids.
In 2016, The Pantry also hosted 200 individuals for nutritional instruction and classes about our local food system. We distributed almost 2 dozen shares of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm fresh produce from Hope Farms and Plainsong Farm via programing sponsored by Access of WMi, the Health Department and the Michigan Fitness Association throughout the growing season. Year after year we strive to provide the neighbors here in southern Kent County, who struggle with food insecurity, not only the food they need, but good food and the education to utilize that food for health and wellness to the best of their ability.
We owe a debt of gratitude to our many individual donors, to local churches, to businesses and manufacturers. Our food costs continue to be the lowest in the Pantry Network despite the fact that we serve more individuals more food year after year. As the second largest pantry in the network, we owe our success entirely to the generosity of others.
This coming year, 2017, is shaping up to be an amazing one with at least one more key program coming online in the next few months. If the funding is made available, we are hoping to open a farm stand here, that will accept SNAP benefits and match them with Double Up Food Bucks. This program would give our neighbors the opportunity to buy additional, locally sourced, organic fruits and vegetables at a fraction of the cost of a local grocery store or farmers’ market. The hope is to expand this farm stand to include a ‘Core Store’ containing commonly consumed items, either repackaged from bulk or in off label packaging. The program would aim at giving the neighbors greater control over what they eat, while giving them the best pricing available for using their limited food budget funds.
Some people think that operating a food pantry is old hat, that we need something new. In a sense, they are right. We should be looking for ways to help people that come to a food pantry to find the help or resources that they need in order to provide for themselves. That would be ideal. Self-sufficiency is the ultimate goal. Obviously, people don’t want to have to use a pantry. They want to make it on their own. People are often embarrassed and even a little scared the first time they come in to a pantry. They’d rather not have to and honestly we’d like nothing more than to have our neighbors not need us here. The fact remains though, year after year for over 30 years, we’ve seen thousands more people come to us in need. Not just need, but emergency need. It is one thing to come up short on rent, it is quite another to have to choose between paying rent and buying food. Read full post
It’s easy to proclaim beliefs. It’s harder to live them out. We know. We’re trying it. This farm is a faith-based experiment. As disciples of Jesus, we want to tend Creation wisely. We want to satisfy the hungry with good things. We trust we’re not alone in these aims. We welcome you, your family and maybe even your church to discover more about how you can put faith into practice with us.
At The Pantry, we feel a special kinship in ministry with Plainsong Farm, our goals are very similar, we aim to Feed the Hungry: Mind, Body & Soul.
We’ve tried a couple of different things over the years: container gardening and community gardening in particular. This year we are going to ‘let the professionals’ handle it. Container gardens will continue to be part of our offerings here, but we are taking a hiatus from the Community Garden as the CSA are more cost-effective.
This spring we will be working directly with Hope Farms (a ministry of Bethlehem Christian Refugee Services). Their CSA Farm hires recently resettled refugees to work on their 5 acre farm, producing quality, weekly produce shares to be sold in the community. The partnership, works for both Hope Farms and The Pantry in a number of ways. Read full post
When The Pantry hired a very part-time social worker in the summer of 2014, believe it or not, there were friends and donors who questioned the need for such a person here. I think, most people have accepted the idea by now, but it is important to articulate why case management is so important. When we brought Stephanie Cuerrier, a health enthusiast and MSW (Master of Social Work) to join our staff, she came to implement our NOW (Nutritional Options for Wellness) program, which has been going gangbusters every since. Additionally, we tasked Stephanie with the broad work of ‘Referrals and Case Management’. Read full post
I just cancelled a monthly subscription to a service I hadn’t used in several months. I signed up, lost interest, schedule changed… you know how it is and paid for the service for at least another six months. It’s easy to forget! That’s the downside of monthly deductions, you can loose track of them. That same mechanism though that makes it easy for us to start something and then forget about it can also be used for good.
Wednesday around noon, I had a young woman, not more than 30, come into The Pantry for help. She came with a friend. She lost her job a few months ago, had ‘pounded the pavement’ as the say every day since without success. Her husband abandoned her and the kids, 3 of them, when the house was foreclosed on last month. She and her 3 kids are staying with the friend that brought her. That friend has 4 kids of her own. They were worried what they were going to provide these kids for Thanksgiving. They came into The Pantry for the first time, ashamed and anxious about what they’d find here. After getting her information entered into the database and talking with her about some of the other opportunities in the area she might benefit from using, she went to shop with one of our volunteers. I saw her leaving later, both she and her friend each pushing a full cart of food. As the door was closing, she must have seen that I was smiling at that sight. She left her cart, turned around and ran back in side. She was crying and smiling and I was a little confused at first. Then she threw her arms wide and gave me a warm hug with several whispered thank yous. Some days its easy to remember why I am here.
Wednesday mornings I volunteer at ‘The Pantry’, a food bank located at John Knox Presbyterian Church. Early in the morning I sort fruits and vegetables and display them in a pleasant way for clients to pick up; ironically my first job as a young teen was sorting and displaying fruits and vegetables in an urban farm stand. Flashbacks.
At 10:00 am ‘The Pantry’ opens and I do ‘intake’ which involves talking with the clients and making entries in an area wide database that tracks income, number of people in the family, address, visits to the pantry, and the like. This not only ensures that we are serving the clients in need and prevents jumping from one pantry to another, but allows us to identify other pressing needs that can be addressed.
The Pantry is making some changes to the way we serve those in need around Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the past, individuals, social clubs and church groups had picked up information sheets for roughly 1,250 families in need of a holiday meal basket and directly provided those items needed for their holiday meal. Unfortunately, many were unable to make that connection mainly because of the transient nature of the rural/suburban poor. Many labor hours were spent each year by staff at The Pantry and at area churches; still we had unmatched families and families that could not be reached. Both donors and recipients were disappointed. Not only was the process of delivery and reception of the holiday meal baskets fraught with difficulties, but the process of families coming in and signing up for the baskets was tedious, requiring dozens of volunteers to process unnecessary paperwork; an experience that was unnecessary and dehumanizing. Read full post
A 30th anniversary only comes around once and we’d like to celebrate with you! We’d like to celebrate you and your relationship with The Pantry at a fundraising event on October 1, 2015. Whether you are a longtime supporter or new to the work we do, we want to have you come out and joing us for lunch. We’ll be honoring a supporting business partner, a few key support churches and a longtime volunteer from John Knox Presbyterian Church.
The Pantry started as a ministry of John Knox in 1985. During interviews with volunteers and members of John Knox Church last year, a few older members remembered that during 1985, 30 years ago, a small food ministry began with funds being set aside and groceries purchased across the street at the grocery store, then delivered from the trunk of a family car by volunteers as needed.That continued for a few years until donations of food and volume of need required a larger closet be cleared for them; this is where the real roots of what we have become took hold.