By Sumaira Hai
Old Town Reporter
Old Town Lansing Times
LANSING – Recent winter snowstorms have had an economic and social effect on the Old Town community.
The “polar vortex” of 2014, which brought over an estimated ten inches of snow to various parts of Michigan, took a toll on community services such as the Greater Lansing Food Bank and the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition>
Joe Wald, executive director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank, said food supplies are down at all seven of the food banks in the area, including the one in Old Town, “The food bank has become the safety net to get nutritious food to those in need across our community,” he said.
“Need increased,” Wald said. “In fact, we distributed 10% more food in 2014 than in 2013.”
Snow has caused numerous problems. GLFB had to close its operation during the snowstorm in early February.
“We cannot pick up and delivery food if our trucks cannot run…our employees cannot make it to the warehouse…so we try to coordinate with our pantry network,” Wald said.
Julie Powers, executive director of the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition , said that snowstorms have crippled their operations at times as well.
The harsh weather earlier this month meant their fuel bills increased 15 percent, and their plowing, shoveling and salting expenses nearly doubled.
“Just like any other business or organization, when the City of Lansing closes, so do we,” Powers said.
Heavy snowfall can lead to flooding and because several of the houses that are part of the GLHC community are in the flood plain, Powers and her staff continually monitor the Red Cedar and Grand rivers.
“We use the United States Geological Survey website to monitor and work with other housing and environmental organizations to ensure that we are aware of potential flooding,” Powers said.
Despite the inconveniences caused by snow and other natural disasters, organizations like the Greater Lansing Food Bank and the Greater Lansing House Coalition have contingency plans in place and have allocated funds in their budgets for these extreme situations.
“Our organization has been in operation for more than 25 years, and all of our board and staff members are well-acquainted with Michigan winters.” Powers said. “Snowstorms are inconvenient but they are part of living in the Great Lakes.”