Don’t Go Hungry: Food Banks Are Here to Help

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

Editor’s note: A reader who has supported local organizations that provide free food to people facing hunger asked ELi to provide this run-down of the groups addressing food insecurity in our area.

Along with the cancellation of in-person schooling due to the coronavirus came the cancellation of free school-distributed meals. For many students, the school meal program provided a consistent source of healthy food, but now that free in-school breakfasts and lunches are no longer an option, many families who suffer from food insecurity have turned to other resources in the community.

At the East Lansing High School, drive-thru meal distribution is continuing every Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. The program provides three days’ worth of meals on Tuesdays and four days’ worth of meals on Thursdays. 

To maintain social distancing, volunteers place the food in the trunks of cars of people who come to pick-up meals, and the recipients stay in their cars during the process. The school is also providing meals that are delivered to houses for those who can’t get to the high school, and some families are receiving gift cards to Meijer.

This program is open to all children ages 18 and under and young adults with special needs who are 26 or under. The school has encouraged other members of the community who do not fit these parameters to go to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

The Greater Lansing Food Bank has adjusted their programs to manage the effects of COVID-19. They started the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program that gives food assistance benefits to families in the area with children ages 5-18 who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. 

For families already enrolled in the Food Assistance Program, money is added to their Bridge Cards. Eligible families that are not enrolled receive an Electronic Benefits Transaction card that can be used to purchase food at any SNAP retailer.

In addition to these changes, the Greater Lansing Food Bank has chosen to double the $20 per day limit on Bridge Cards for users who choose to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables. 

The Greater Lansing Food Bank and ELHS are not the only places in the area where people in need can access free food during the pandemic. 

The MSU Student Food Bank is allowing students to register for appointments in which they can pick-up food outside of Olin Health Center once-per-week. 

Senior citizens can call the Tri-County Office on Aging to access the Meals on Wheels program, or they can use available sites to pick-up pre-packaged food.

Other food banks in the area include the Eastside Community Action Agency, the Haslett Community Food Bank, the Holmes Road Church of Christ, and the Southside Community Kitchen.

Another place offering food to those in need is Saint Paul Lutheran Church. East Lansing residents can call Saint Paul’s food pantry to schedule an appointment to pick up groceries at the church, while remaining socially distant and safe.

“St. Paul’s Food Pantry was originally established in December, 2010, in order to fulfill part of our Church’s mission which is to love and serve one another,” Beverly Johnson, a co-chairman of the pantry, explains. “During the pandemic we chose to continue to offer our Food Pantry’s services to East Lansing residents with some changes when clients come to pick up groceries, to keep our clients and volunteers as safe as possible and to follow social distancing guidelines.”

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