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“Mitch” works two jobs to support the family: at a department store during the day and cleaning banks at night. He and his wife “Laura” live in Howell, and she came to the Shared Harvest Pantry run by Gleaners for the first time last spring. She ended up at the pantry because the family’s monthly budget could not stretch to cover basic expenses.
“We had $50 in the bank,” says Laura, mother of three children (ages 4, 11 and 13). “We had to choose between putting gas in the car to get my husband to and from work or buying food. I called Gleaners.”
Laura says her first-time food pantry experience was “amazing.” She was not aware of client choice pantries, where people choose the food that they need and want, instead of receiving a pre-packaged box.
Still, that first visit was tough. “Once I got around the idea of needing to be there, it was great,” says Laura. “There’s a lot of shame that comes with needing to ask for help, so I had to get past that.”
Although resistant to coming to the pantry, she remembers the kindness of the volunteers. “A lady stocking the shelves was putting out cookies, and she told me to take two bags because I have kids. The volunteers were gracious and helpful.”
“When you think of a food pantry, you think of canned spinach, lima beans, sauerkraut the things that people don’t like to eat,” recalls Laura. “I pictured leftovers of what people didn’t want in their own cupboard.” Instead, she shopped for food her family would eat and enjoy. “There was frozen food from area restaurants, beautiful soups, crackers and other things that I would never be able to afford.”
She left with two grocery carts full of food. “It was an immense amount of food, and we were so grateful to have it.” She remembers receiving two cartons of milk, peanut butter, frozen food and bread, and other items that the family needed.
That was the first time Laura went to Shared Harvest Pantry, but she foresees a visit to the pantry next month. Since her first visit, Mitch lost one of his cleaning accounts, but received a small promotion and pay raise at the department store. In September, when their son started Head Start preschool, Laura lost her part-time job at a local sandwich shop that closed.
Though she hasn’t returned for 11 months, Laura will be welcomed back to Shared Harvest when her family needs more food. She says that the food she received last March lasted two months because it supplemented food already in the house. “We stretched it out, the gift that it was, for a long while.”
“It’s a blessing to know that help is there if needed. We need only to reach out and ask,” says Laura.
Shared Harvest Pantry in Howell is open Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., Monday - Thursday, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., Saturday, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 517-548-3710.