Pantry needs 'out of control' in Tri-Cities

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:23 PM

Smith joined hundreds of community members who braved the weather to fill boxes and bags from the 10,000 pounds of food from the Feeding America mobile food pantry at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

The truck makes regular stops to the Grand Haven area twice a month in an effort to give Tri-Cities residents food, just as local food pantries continue to assist community needs.

Smith said her family uses the mobile food truck and services from Love INC. The Spring Lake woman wasn’t sure what they’d do without community support.

“It’s all about seeking sources,” she said.

Smith’s family began to use community resources when their food stamps were cut when they moved to the area a few months ago.

As Smith has sought a job a medical assistant job, said she’s learned to stretch her resources by canning foods and freezing produce.

Smith’s husband, who is a construction worker, was hesitant about seeking community help because of what people might say. Despite this, Smith said everyone has been kind and not judgmental.

“They’re helpful,” she said.

Love INC Executive Director Mark Green said they’ve experienced an increase in services throughout the past five years.

He said they previously served about 17 families a day for food, clothing and shelter needs. The organization now helps about 30 families a day.

Karen Reenders, director of The People Center in Spring Lake, said they served a record number of people in September.

Reenders said the average manageable amount is about 200 people a month, but they served more than 440 in September. She said they don’t know how to keep up.

“It’s out of control,” she said.

Capt. Sally Davis of the Grand Haven Salvation Army said they’ve experienced a consistent need as they help more than 300 people a month for food assistance.

During a visit to local food pantries, residents receive a three-day food supply. The agencies allow residents to visit their pantries up to six times a year.

Residents receive staple food items like rice, macaroni and cheese, a loaf of frozen bread, and one pound of ground beef. The People Center also offers fresh items from their community garden.

As local organizations serve record amounts of people, they rely on community members to donate time, money and food resources.

Green said they are “desperate” for donations because the federal tax credit for donations ended last year.

Reenders said they’ve experienced a decrease in donations as needs have risen. Reenders said they spend more than $3,000 a month to keep food in the pantry as they shop almost weekly.

To read more of this story, see Saturday's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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