Lansing food pantry helps hundreds

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People stand in line, waiting to receive food

Maysa Sitar

Lansing residents wait in line to receive food and other necessities from the mobile pantry

Hundreds lined up Saturday at a mobile food pantry hosted by the City of Lansing and the Greater Lansing Food Bank. It has served served thousands of Lansing residents in its 10 years.

Joan Jackson Johnson, the Lansing Director of Human Relations and Community Services, said this food pantry was particularly important.

“We’ve had increased demand for food because when kids are out of school, families have to feed them more,” said Johnson, “and the families have a huge problem filling that gap.”

The food pantry took place at Pennway Church of God, where Vicki Sproul is a member and volunteer.

“We’re very fortunate,” said Sproul, “we’ve got a large sanctuary.”

The pantry feeds an average of 500-600 households per month, according to Johnson, who said she started the food pantry after noticing a need in her community.

“I saw several seniors who were eating cat food and I just thought how can we do this in this great city of Lansing?”said Johnson, “Initially my husband and I did a makeshift food bank, buying stuff at Meijer and passing it out. But as the need grew, we grew.”

Other groups have joined the pantry, bringing different necessities to hand out. A non-profit, Helping Women Period, is one. Lynse Taite, the co-founder and co-director of Helping Women Period, said that they come to hand out pads and tampons to homeless and low-income women.

Two women stand behind a table piled with feminine hygiene products.

Maysa Sitar

Volunteers from Helping Women Period hand out menstrual products at the mobile food pantry

“We come every third Saturday to the food pantry,” said Taite, “We’ve given away over a million items since we started.”

Ellen Lynnette Geller, a participant of the food pantry, said that the free menstrual products were helpful.

“They’re expensive,” said Geller, “especially when you’ve got girls as grandbabies.”

This February’s food pantry was particularly needed, according to Johnson.

“People receive food stamps at the beginning of January and received their February food stamps mid-February,” said Johnson, “A lot of them have already spent it, and they have to take it through the end of the month.” The gap in the food stamp distribution, according to Johnson, was because of the government shutdown.

Food insecurity was an important issue for Johnson, who took her current job after working as a private practice psychologist in East Lansing.

“I took this job, a lot less money, but it was really my passion to help the poor and vulnerable because I grew up really poor,” said Johnson, “We have a lot of senior citizens who have to choose between food and medication, and that’s not OK.”

Geller, who is on disability, worries about medication.

“It’s either food or medicine,” said Geller, “I go without my medicine instead.”

The food costs about $4,000 for each food pantry. They are looking for volunteers, said Johnson, and can always use donations. The food for each pantry comes from the Greater Lansing Food Bank, and donations can be made there as well. For more information, call the City of Lansing Human Relations and Community Service Department at (517) 483-4347.

“I’m glad I came,” said Geller, “That’s where I got my coat last time. Other than that, I didn’t have a coat.”

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