People Gotta Eat” Coalition Educates Clients on How to Cook Pantry Items

 By Christine Karsten

South Bend, Ind. — Summer is probably one of the most critical times for food pantries. They see fewer donation drives and kids are out of school, meaning those that qualify for free and reduced lunch may need to find food elsewhere. That’s why 11 pantries in St. Joseph County, who work together thanks to a coalition called “People Gotta Eat,” are looking for donations.

“People Gotta Eat” started about six or seven years ago thanks to United Way of St. Joseph County.

“It was important for United Way to support our local food pantries and obviously people needing to eat is a basic life necessity and we recognize that there are always resources that are needed by our food pantries to support our folks,” says President and CEO of United Way of St. Joseph County Matt Harrington.

Each of the 11 food pantries in this coalition existed before it was established. Now, they work together.

“I didn’t have anything on this pallet, nothing on this pallet, nothing on this pallet, nothing on this pallet and nothing on that pallet,” explains Director of Programs at St. Vincent De Paul Society Dale Seely. “These were also pretty bare over here. So, one of the things our relationship with ‘People Gotta Eat’ has done for us is helps us to generate the funds we need in order to purchase food. When we don’t have those good food drives coming in we have to purchase food because I have to take care of the people who walk through the door.”

It also allows pantries to talk about what is working and what’s not and lets them know when pantries, like St. Vincent De Paul, need donations.

“We need things like mac and cheese, spaghetti sauce, pasta, boxed potatoes, breakfast cereal, a very important item,” explains Seely.

But, what they found out through these donations is that they come in contact with items their clients may not be able to recognize let alone cook. That is why they decided to try something new this year. They decided to work with Martin’s and have them take things from the pantry and make meals out those items.

“I need something that is not going to be real costly, I need something that is going to be relatively easy and I need something I can do quickly because a lot of people who are struggling don’t have a great deal of time to stand in a kitchen and do things,” adds Seely.

Martin’s was able to do that and provide menus.

“No one in St. Joseph County should be hungry because they couldn’t find a pantry that was able to help them,” says Seely.

There are 11 pantries total in the coalition. As of July first there will be 14. If you want to join or donate, click here.



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