St. John Food Cupboard Serves Community During Pandemic

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

For the past 10 years, the St. John Food Cupboard, run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. John Student Center, has supplied community members with bags of food, produce, and personal hygiene items. And during the pandemic, the food pantry has continued to distribute items to their clients – the families and people who need them. 

According to one person affiliated with the pantry, “Since the advent of the pandemic, the number of guests at our pantry has diminished greatly, but we are pretty sure that the need has not decreased.”

Volunteers want the community to know that the resource is still available.

Clients are able to access the food cupboard between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturdays. The cupboard is located in St. John Student Center, at 327 M.A.C. Ave., across from the East Lansing Marriott. Clients and donors are asked to wear masks when inside the building, and masks are required outside in the area according to the city’s mask mandate.

Before the pandemic, the food pantry provided individuals and families with the opportunity to pick a grocery bag full of food, canned goods, produce, and personal hygiene items once a week. But volunteers have had to adapt to  the conditions of the pandemic, and the pantry now provides pre-packaged brown paper bags with a mix of the same items. The food pantry will return to inviting clients in to pick out items once the pandemic is past.

About three dozen volunteers help at the food cupboard, according to Chuck Robowski, the volunteer coordinator for the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. John’s.

“It’s really geared toward helping neighbors in need,” Robowski said.

The food cupboard is available to all East Lansing residents who have an ID that has an East Lansing address and all students and faculty with a MSU ID. In addition, people who attend St. John Student Center or St. Thomas Aquinas Church may also access the food cupboard. Otherwise, there are no  eligibility requirements, and volunteers do not question those who need to access the pantry.

“We rely on individuals who come to the food cupboard, that they have a need,” Robowski said.

Many households already are clients of the food cupboard. According to Robowski, around 50-60 households come to the food cupboard each week. To support this number of clients, the food cupboard receives donations from church members, the Meijer Simply Give program, and the Greater Lansing Food Bank. 

To donate to the food cupboard, potential donors may make financial donations through  the parish website. To donate food, items may be brought to the food cupboard when it is open on Saturday.

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