Food Club serves over 400 households so far during pandemic.

March 31, 2020

Food Club serves over 400 households so far during pandemic.

LUDINGTON — The Lakeshore Food Club served over 400 households since transitioning to a new box distribution model earlier this month.

The transition and current pandemic has meant that operations run a bit differently at the LFC. The facility is currently staffed by staff from three area non-profits – United Way of Mason County, Habitat for Humanity and Staircase Youth Services. Today, March 31, Angie Hendricks, a United Way Community School Coordinator, answered the LFC’s 400th call, meaning that 400 Mason County households have been served by the Lakeshore Food Club since March 20, 2020. The Lakeshore Food Club calculates that the 400 households in need represent more than 1,500 individuals that have needed food.

The Lakeshore Food Club suspended its membership fee and grocery store model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect its volunteer staff and members, of which the majority of both are either in a high-risk age group or have compromised health conditions. “Keeping our volunteers and members healthy and safe was and continues to be our number one priority,” said Executive Director O’Nealya Gronstal, who has been in the position since March 9. “We are calling it initiation by fire,” joked Gronstal. 

The Lakeshore Food Club desires to see every resident in need in Mason County served during these troubling, uncertain times. “Knowing that we are providing the healthiest foods we can procure, either through purchasing or through donations, is what allows me to go home at night knowing we are doing the best we possibly can do, serving as many people as we possibly can serve. People are starting to worry about how they are going to pay rent or the mortgage. They shouldn’t have to worry about how they are going to pay for food,” said Gronstal. 

With the economic ramifications of the current crisis being felt locally, the Lakeshore Food Club staff is anticipating an increase in requests in the coming weeks. 

The community has responded with financial donations as well as food donations. Sanders Meats, House of Flavors, Cornerstone Baptist Food Pantry, and Bread of Life Pantry in Baldwin have all provided fresh food donations, allowing the Food Club to continue their mission of providing healthy foods to all. The LFC was also the recipient of a recent Meijer COVID-19 response Simply Give gift. Walmart, in partnership with Feeding America West Michigan, continues to provide food rescue donations of frozen goods which includes baked goods as well as limited meats. 

By suspending the membership fees during the crisis, the Food Club is experiencing a $5,000 per month loss of income. In order to sustain the current distribution model through June 1, 2020, the Food Club is estimating that it will need $30,000. Many cost-effective vendors have either suspended their business to business ordering or are experiencing long lead times. “When you had no preparation for this crisis, a three-week lead time changes everything,” stated Gronstal. 

“I wanted to take this opportunity to first thank the community for its response. To see partnering agencies come together and roll up our sleeves and work hard together is one of the many reasons I love my new job, Gronstal said. “To see real estate agents carrying food to people’s cars shows the DNA of this wonderful community. To open the mail and see checks from folks in the community tells me we are trusted with their donation. My family came to love a cute little beach town called Ludington many years ago as tourists, but today we know we have found our forever home in this amazing, supportive community. It has been said by many that America is at its best when we are in crisis. That’s when we as a nation set aside differences and serve our neighbors. I have seen this to be true for Mason County. I want to say a huge thank you to all who have supported our neighbors in need by supporting the Lakeshore Food Club. We cannot do what we are doing alone and cannot serve those we are serving without the community’s support. I wish I could give everyone who has supported us a great big hug. But since I can’t right now – let’s break another Guinness Book of World Record when this is all over. I am sure if I hugged everyone I want to right now; it would break the record for the world’s longest line for a hug.”

Those in need of a food box may call 231-480-4334 to schedule a pick-up time or visit www.lakeshorefoodclub.org. Distribution times are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from noon to 4 p.m.

To make a monetary donation, visit www.lakeshorefoodclub.org or mail to Lakeshore Food Club, 920 E. Tinkham Ave., Ludington, MI 49431.

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