The Food Cupboard located at 327 M.A.C. Ave. has been operating for about 40 years according to Chuck Roboski, an employee of Michigan State University’s Office of Sponsored Programs and a volunteer at the Food Cupboard.
They typically serve three communities, MSU students who present a school ID, any resident in East Lansing who has a need for food as well as any member of the St. John Catholic Church.
The Food Cupboard strives to help those in need who don’t have adequate nutrition, so they’re trying to help out in some way and get them through another week.
“We’re trying to continually see how we can do a better job helping people given the resources that we have,” Roboski said.
They operate 40 weeks per year on Saturdays from 9-11 a.m., with an exception of the two Saturdays around Christmas and New Years. During the summertime, they operate twice monthly. In a typical year, they’ll serve about 2,000 people. They provide them with one bag of groceries which include some personal hygiene items, fresh produce and a Meijer gift card with a value of $5 so that they can purchase any other food that they may need.
The Food Cupboard relies on donations from members of the parish and they also get assistance from the Meijer foundation through their Simply Give program which helps food banks across the area. Lastly, they get some food from the Greater Lansing Food Bank.
Anne-Marie Voice, the unofficial volunteer coordinator of the Food Cupboard, mentioned that their operation has shifted due to COVID-19. Previously, people were able to do their own shopping from whatever food was available. Now, the volunteers make packages of food on Friday nights and then distribute those prepackaged bags on Saturday mornings.
Voice also added that historically they have served many MSU students and student families, especially international students.
For those looking to volunteer and help out, Voice added that they have a sign-up sheet on their website.
“It is a nice volunteer opportunity," Voice said. "Many MSU students have participated in the past because it can be a one-time short volunteer commitment. There is no necessity to commit to multiple weeks of service, and there is no training required.”
From her observations, Voice also believes that there is a great need within the international community because they don’t receive enough money to feed their families from being graduate teaching assistants. It is also not easy for them to procure employment outside of that.
Liz Pahl, the manager of the Food Cupboard added that their mission is much more than to just hand out food.
“It’s not just giving food, it’s to help people navigate the system to be able to get resources they might need to get them out of poverty,” Pahl said.
If you’d like to volunteer, Pahl said that there are more opportunities throughout the week. On Monday morning people come and sort the donations while during the week volunteers shop for food and on Fridays people pack the food up in bags.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pahl has seen fewer people stopping by because of people not being able to get a choice of food along, the fear of COVID-19 and people receiving more money on their Michigan Bridge cards or food stamps.
“I’d say our numbers have crept back up," Pahl said. We used to serve about 60 families every weekend and now we serve about 45. That’s why we're reaching out because we have the capability to serve more people.”
Pahl also said that volunteering has provided her with a greater understanding of the people of East Lansing.
“I think all of us who do it have started (volunteering) thinking 'Oh we’re just going to hand a bag of food,' but it’s more about the relationships you make with people and that’s why I got kind of hooked into it," Pahl said. "A lot of grad students have wonderful stories about their country and what research they're doing at MSU. ... I just enjoy talking to the people and I want them to feel like it’s a welcoming place.”
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