As pandemic persists, Madison Heights Food Pantry continues

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 25, 2021

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Even before COVID-19 upset the rhythms of society, food security was a struggle for many. The Madison Heights Food Pantry formed at the onset of the pandemic, in direct response to it. Officials say there continues to be a need for food, child-rearing supplies, hygiene items and more, and donations continue to be accepted.  

Earlier this year, the pantry officially reopened at Central Church, 1529 12 Mile Road, next to Jimmy John’s. The pantry had previously operated out of the shelter building at Huffman Park.

Currently, the open pantry days are the first and third Saturdays of each month, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There are no eligibility requirements to attend Pantry Saturdays. Recipients stay in their vehicles the entire time — once they pull up to the church, a volunteer will greet them and ask for some basic information, and then bring the boxes and place them in the trunk. The dates this September are Sept. 4 and Sept. 18.

Homebound deliveries are also available, but for Madison Heights residents only. For more information on deliveries, or the pantry in general, email hello@madisonheightsfoodpantry.org.

The pantry typically serves anywhere from 50 to 90 families each Pantry Saturday, and also makes between 25 and 30 deliveries twice a month. Officials say the numbers have held consistent throughout 2021. Aside from food, baby diapers and wipes are the most commonly requested items.

Colleen Porter, the president of the pantry, said she’s thankful for the community’s support.

“The pantry is beyond blessed by the continuing generosity of the neighbors in our community that helps stock the shelves at the pantry,” Porter said in an email. “The pantry wouldn’t be able to continue if it wasn’t for the donations of food, money and gift cards to grocery stores.”

In recent months, a partnership between Liberty Cannabis — newly opened in the city, in June — and Lumetta Produce resulted in significant donations to the pantry. The team collected more than 500 pounds of donations, including nonperishable food and cleaning supplies. Liberty Cannabis and Lumetta Produce then matched those donations with more than 500 pounds of fresh produce.

Liberty Cannabis also donated $350 worth of grocery store gift cards. In total, more than 1,000 pounds of fresh produce and supplies were donated to the Madison Heights Food Pantry, as well as to St. Vincent de Paul of Madison Heights.

Porter said the pantry has also been fortunate to receive generous grants from Scripps Howard Broadcasting, as well as Henkel.

“These grants, in addition to monetary and item donations from businesses and neighbors, have kept the pantry stocked,” Porter said. “As we head toward the holiday season, expenses will rise as we plan to provide Thanksgiving and December holiday meals for families.”

As such, more donations are always needed. There are drop boxes located around town where people can drop off donations to the food pantry. The pantry always needs more staple items including pasta, rice, seasonings, peanut butter, jellies, pancake mix, syrup and cereal, snacks, gelatin and pudding mix, as well as household cleaning supplies, diapers — both for babies, and larger-size ones for adults — and hygiene items, such as baby wipes.

There is also a need for packaging materials, including quart-sized zip-closed storage bags, snack-sized zip-closed bags, gallon-sized twist-tie-closed bags, and clean sturdy boxes measuring around 12 inches by 12 inches by 15 inches.  

Donations can be dropped off at Central Church, in the bin at the east entrance; at City Hall, 300 W. 13 Mile Road, in the vestibule past the south entrance facing 13 Mile Road, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; at Pharmacy Shop, 28411 Dequindre Road, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays; at Century 21, located at 1186 E. 12 Mile Road, on the front porch; and at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, at 1434 E. 13 Mile Road.

Porter said the pantry’s new home has been a boon to its operations.

“Central Church has been extremely welcoming and accommodating to the pantry, providing the pantry a comfortable and stable home,” Porter said. She also noted ongoing donations of bread and rolls from Knickerbocker Bakery, as well as contributions from Metro Food Rescue and Dearborn Ham/Sausage. Missy & Mel’s, in Royal Oak, donated themed boxes for Cinco de Mayo.

“We would love to partner up with some local grocery stores, as we constantly have a need for meat and dairy products,” Porter said, noting that businesses can also contact the pantry by emailing hello@madisonheightsfoodpantry.org.

“We are now over a year into the existence of the pantry, and it’s incredible how it has continued to bring our community together,” Porter said. “We are amazed on a regular basis at the support and generosity we receive from our neighbors. We are also extremely blessed to have such a hardworking, dedicated team of volunteers who execute this vital asset in the community.”

The previous board president and executive director was Amanda Stein. She helped start the pantry but hasn’t been involved since February. She had high praise for the people now in charge.

“The current team and board have done incredible work, taking the pantry in the second year,” Stein said in an email.

Stein reminisced about how the pantry originally came together.

“I started the pantry’s Facebook group on March 13, 2020, and asked a few other residents to join. Within two weeks, we had the Huffman building and donations, and were handing out food donations. The growth this past year was phenomenal. The community support was incredible. The pantry volunteers are dedicated, hardworking and deeply caring people.

“As a social worker, I knew a city-focused food pantry had been needed for a long time, and will continue to be needed for a while,” Stein added. “The pandemic amplified the (reality) of food insufficiency in our community and surrounding communities. The coming unemployment payment collapse this fall should be a red flag, and it’s important for all of us to be prepared to support our neighbors.”

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