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.
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 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.
We’ve become acutely aware that for many area children we are their best hope for a hunger-free summer and a smooth transition back to school. We are always looking for ways to help the 3,500 children who come to The Pantry with their parents each year. In the past, we have always haphazardly distributed school supplies to those who asked for them from what we had received. Since the start of school is almost a month away we’d like to organize a giveaway for 100 children in our service area. Our goals is to collect the items below and assemble backpacks to give away. School starts in nearby districts on September 8, 2015. We’ll announce a date for distribution during the week before the Labor Day holiday.
If you are out gathering up supplies for your little ones or grandchildren pick up a few extra for us at The Pantry or give on-line and we’ll buy the items for you! Just click here -> Back2School Supplies
Our NOW (Nutritional Options for Wellness) Pantry, is a collaborative work with Spectrum Health and Access of West Michigan, helping people with chronic health conditions to take control of their illness. This is our second year as a NOW Pantry site. At The Pantry we love this program! The program facilitates change, real change in peoples’ lives. Reducing health concerns for one person adds huge value back into the community by returning people to greater productivity, helping lower everyone’s overall health costs, and increasing quality of life. Even the social safety net receives a reprieve when someone’s health is restored and their illnesses managed!
Anyone who’s been to London or watches enough BBC America, knows the phrase Mind the Gap. The expression is a warning to keep an eye out and don’t slip between the train and the platform, that gap can be very dangerous. But I am thinking of another dangerous gap, the one between adequate groceries and food insecurity and a different sense of the word mind, not look out for, but be upset by this gap.
We should mind the gap, mind that there is a gap for many between having enough and not nearly having enough. There should be a bit of indignation in our voices when we say that there are hungry people in this country of plenty an right here in our own community. Summer is a time of particular need. Kids are out of school, kids who would normally be receiving lunch provided for free and a take home supper are home during the summer months in households that struggle to bridge the divide of their ‘grocery gap’. In an early BLOG I wrote, I outlined the problem in detail; so, I will spare you more on that here. Instead, let me tell you about one our neighbors, Trina… Read full post