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.