GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Prices are on the rise, which makes it harder for people to afford food, shelter and more. That’s why one food pantry in West Michigan is increasing its efforts to help those in need.
Every Monday through Friday, Lori Malson gathers and hands out food to people in need alongside fellow staff and volunteers at the Salvation Army food pantry in Kent County. She said in the past year, they have had a 150% increase in people coming to the pantry for help.
“We have so many people coming here that are embarrassed to come here, that are nervous about coming here, that have never used a food pantry,” Malson, the social services manager at the Salvation Army, said. “This is why we’re here to help those people.”
The Salvation Army said in a week, it helps around 110 to 150 households and hands out between 7,000 and 8,000 meals a month. The organization decided to increase the amount of food that it gives out each visit due to the doubling of people and food needed. The pantry now hands out six full days of food instead of three.
“Because of so many things that have happened, we’ve had to expand that to six full days of food. Folks were just coming back and they were not able to get their needs met in other ways,” Tim Meyer, the Grand Valley Area commander for the Salvation Army, said.
Malson said the increase began in March after the state’s food assistance program, or EBT, decreased benefits that people received during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When that March deposit came and it wasn’t there, people were in panic mode. The need is greater. We have higher rent, we have higher gas prices,” Malson said.
The pantry is free to all Kent County residents. If you need help, you can walk into the social services center to meet with a volunteer or staff member. They will walk you through the food selection process.
The pantry houses items like pasta, canned vegetables and fruits, frozen meats and baby formula. People are able to choose what items they would like to best plan meals for the upcoming week. Organizers said allowing people to choose specific items helps limit waste.
“We don’t want to give you items that are not going to work for your family, or if there’s an allergy, we can avoid that, things like that,” Malson said.
The only restriction to get food is that you must be a Kent County resident. You will need everyone in your family’s dates of birth and full names. The pantry asks people to wait 30 days after they receive food before coming back, since the food given should last for that long.
With the large increase in people using the pantry, the staff says they need help with food or money donations or by volunteering.
“We have to have volunteers to make this pantry function. It’s run off of volunteers. So the biggest needs are Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays for volunteers. That’s when we see the highest influx of our numbers,” Malson said.
The pantry hopes that with donations, it will be able to expand in the future to offer more food and resources to residents.