HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — At 2:30 p.m. on a Monday, an eager WOOD TV8 community affairs director walked through the open door at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, ready to interview the manager, Ann Fletcher.
A volunteer was quick to say, “We don’t open until 3.”
These days, it’s not out of the norm for new faces to show up unannounced at the food pantry. The pantry has seen the needs of its neighbors rise dramatically.
“We’re feeding over 500 people a month,” Fletcher said. “It’s crazy. Our numbers are way higher than even during COVID. We do not know what’s going on.”
This January, Fletcher and the pantry opened a new food rescue program in its storefront. It’s stocked with bread, canned goods, vegetables, milk, books and clothing essentials — all free, any day the pantry is open.
“I have dozens that come in just about every day, because every day we have different stuff,” Fletcher said. “I get 12 cases of bread for a Saturday, and it’s gone in four hours.”
Between the food rescue program in the front and the pantry’s major monthly food distribution program in the back is a thrift store, sandwiched right in the middle of the building.
The thrift area operates on a donation basis, and all the money collected helps buy more food for the growing needs of the monthly food service — an important component of bringing a quality meal to a neighbor in need.
“Some days we are worried, you know, are we going to have enough,” Fletcher said. “I want to make sure that they always have milk and they always have eggs and they always have fresh food. That’s important to me.”
The pantry is able to purchase its meats and other hard-to-find items through organizations like Feeding America West Michigan, and it has relied on community partners that donate their moving services to help pick up food orders each month.
The small building across the street from St. Francis de Sales in Holland offers a trinity of services to help embody the mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry: caring for its neighbors.
“I get people that say, with the food that they get the once a month in the back and then the food that they can get here every day, they’re able to sustain,” Fletcher said.
This week, Hope College donated 1,705 pounds of food.