Manna Pantry gives extra food bags to families in need

Bonnie Clark: 'We're all in this together'

BIG RAPIDS — As residents are laid off and students are informed about school closings, the Manna Pantry of Big Rapids is offering extra food bags to those in need.

"We are still open," Manna Pantry of Big Rapids Executive Director Bonnie Clark said." We want people to utilize us, if they need us."

Serving residents in Mecosta and Osceola County, the Manna Pantry is an emergency pantry which helps people who are in need of food.

However, since the coronavirus — causing area businesses and schools to close their doors — Clark said the pantry is offering some extra help.

"We are offering a school bag every week that school is closed," Clark said. "So, now that (school is closed) for the rest of the year, we'll probably do that until the end of May to help out families."

According to Clark, the food bags, also called "school bags," contain nine to 10 items, including cheeses, canned fruit, vegetables and more.

"We put a meat in there — it could be chicken, it could be fish sticks, pork patties, something like that," she said.

"We try to change it up every week. Different things just to help out the family."

Though the schools bags are typically offered by the pantry, Clark said because of the coronavirus affecting so many families, the bags will not count toward the four visits a year residents can make. She notes this is in large part thanks to area businesses' donations.

"What has been so heartwarming is the different agencies that have reached out and contacted us to provide us with different funds for this," she said.

Some businesses that have helped the pantry during this time include Meijer, Meceola Children's Council, the Fremont Foundation, Public Safety and Angels of Action.

"It's an honor for me to be able to utilize the money that people have sent us to help our community," Clark said. "It's so wonderful being an agent of that process."

As well as offering extra food to families with students, the pantry continues to remain open during its regular hours, 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"Clients call when they are in the parking lot. We get their information and then go through their shopping list so they still have choices," Clark said. "Their list is filled, then placed outside for clients to pick up."

Since the coronavirus, however, Clark said the pantry has been in need of volunteers, as many of the older volunteers have opted to shelter at home.

With the remaining volunteers and help from community businesses, Clark said she is grateful to be of service during this time.

"It feels wonderful that we're able to stay open because we want people who need the food, need the help, we want them to use us," she said. "We're all in this together. We're here to help, and please use us."

Those interested in volunteering may call the pantry at 231-408-2940.

Monetary donations also are welcome at the pantry by drop off or mail, 315 S. State St., Big Rapids, MI 49307.

For more information, call the pantry at 231-408-2940 or follow "Manna Pantry of Big Rapids" on Facebook.