Katrina Robinson said she and her husband relied on food stamps and pantries to survive while they were “young and broke.”
Today, she helps other people in need by bringing food to free stands set up around Lansing.
“Our luck turned around and it feels good to help make sure others have food, regardless of who they are or what their situation is,” Robinson said. “If they feel they need it, they can take it, no questions asked.”
There are at least six free stands in Lansing listed by the Facebook Group Lansing Area Free Stands. These stands — which can be as simple as a shelf, cupboard or covered outside table — provide food and other supplies to anyone who needs them.
“When I find good deals, I stock up on non-perishables and stock the shelves,” Robinson said. “I try to buy only things that are easy to make with a microwave or can be eaten out of a bag. There are kids in the neighborhood that are hungry due to food insecurity at home. Having the free pantry stocked with ready-to-eat items helps keep them fed without experiencing any shame.”
According to a study done by Feeding America, more than 46 million Americans, including 7 million seniors and 12 million children, rely on food pantries and meal programs to feed their families.
“Free stands and pantries remove a barrier that sometimes exists for those suffering from food insecurity,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t matter how much money you make, what lifestyle you have, or what choices you’ve made. If you can help reduce food waste or can benefit from using a free stand, go for it, when you can give back, do it.”
Casandra Cole and her husband started as drivers who delivered food from different locations to the various stands. After inheriting a stand from their friend through hard work, they have found that the rewards keep on coming.
“We chose to help because we knew people were struggling,” Cole said. “The food bank was offering mobile food pickup, but so many people who need food don’t have cars.”
Cole thinks free stands are a great way to help people feel more empowered because of the necessary calls to action.
“I also think that there is a sense of pride. This is not a program. There is no funding, no politics, no noise, just love and sharing,” Cole said.
“There are no downsides. Just challenges to rise up to. When we needed help changing the ice packs out twice a day in the summer, or chasing skunks off, or throwing away expired goods, we’ve had people show up. It’s not glamorous but damn, it sure is beautiful.”
Kitty Fluke has a free pantry in her yard in Lansing.
“I worked with the homeless for years,” Fluke said. “There’s just a need and when the pandemic came there was such a need because there’s so many people going without basic food.
“We need to help each other, we need to come together and help others in need. A lot of people can’t volunteer their time at shelters but we all can clean out our cupboards and give what we can.”