Food pantry feeds record numbers

Donations needed to stock shelves

REED CITY – As the need for food assistance grows in the Reed City community, the local food pantry needs additional support to help stock its shelves.

The Reed City Ministerial Association Food Pantry supplied food to 3,589 individuals from January to June - 700 more individuals than the first six months of last year.

“Every month this year so far has been higher than last year,” said pantry coordinator Robert Pooley. “Yesterday was one of our slow days; we only had 12 families. We used to consider that a busy day.”

The sluggish economy and the increase of subsidized housing in the small community over the years may be the reason for the increase in need, Pooley said.

But he does not see an increase in need as a negative thing, just an opportunity for new donors to offer support.

The food pantry, located at the south end of St. Phillip Neri Catholic Church at 831 S. Chestnut St. currently is funded by proceeds from events including the Crop Walk and Crossroads Car Show, along with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, churches and individuals in the community.

“We have a very generous community. It’s amazing. We couldn’t do this without them,” Pooley said.

When Paul Lewis started the Crossroads Car Show eight years ago, the food pantry was first on his list to benefit from the event’s entry fees.

“We wanted a cause that would benefit people from Reed City. The food pantry is the most obvious choice,” Lewis said.

The popular show during the annual Great American Crossroads Festival typically donates between $600 and $800 to the pantry. This year Lewis is adding a second component to help the food center.

“This year we’re going to have people bring food too so we can give (the food pantry) food and money,” he said. “We’ll have a pick-up truck sitting there and they can bring food and put it right in the back.”

Car show participants are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item to the show. Lewis lowered the entry fee to compensate for the cost of food items.

Along with donations given through specific events, any donation to the pantry is welcome, Pooley said. He recommends individuals give monetarily or buy regular-sized items in bulk, such as cans of peas, fruit, tomato sauce and

soup or boxes of macaroni and cheese or potatoes.

Donations of regular-sized items help to fit more on the shelves, he said.

Individuals who visit the pantry receive enough food for seven meals for themselves and their family. Those coming to the pantry must bring a picture ID and sign a waiver saying they need the food.

“We don’t check on that, but people sign that they are (under the poverty line),” Pooley said. “This is a ministry of the Ministerial Association and we look at it as a ministry, so we’re going to treat people with dignity.”

Though they don’t turn anyone down who comes for the first time, they will direct those who don’t live near Reed City to visit pantries in Marion, Sears, Tustin or Big Rapids the next time they are in need.

The pantry receives food donations twice a month from the Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank in Cadillac and purchases food from Vics Supermarket.

“Sometimes Vics gives me food at their cost or below,” Pooley said.

The operation could not function at all if it were not for the faithful volunteers, Pooley said. Around 35 volunteers staff the pantry in the summer, but more helping hands are needed for the winter months when many of the regular volunteers flock to warmer climates.

New volunteer Humphrey VanderVlught counts the experience as a meaningful way to spend his free time.

“I just retired two months ago and I go to the same church as Robert and a bunch of these guys,” VanderVlught said as he stocked pasta on a shelf at the pantry. “It’s something to do in my spare time.”

The pantry is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those interested in volunteering should call Dawn Pooley at St. Paul Lutheran Church at (231) 832-9541.

Reed City Ministerial Association Food Pantry

Located: South end of St. Phillip Neri Catholic Church at 831 S. Chestnut St.

Hours: 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In need of regular-sized cans of:

  • peas
  • green beans
  • canned fruit
  • tomato sauce
  • diced tomatoes
  • cereal
  • pork and beans
  • chili and kidney beans
  • 5 oz. cans of tuna
  • condensed tomato soup
  • condensed chicken noodle

In need of regular-sized boxes of:

  • potatoes
  • macaroni and cheese

For more information, call (231) 832-9541.