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Mobile food pantry in Grand Rapids provides fresh, healthy meals for families in need

Samika Douglas with LINC UP says the 49507 zip code is a food desert. Saturday, her organization gave out more than 9,000 pounds of food to neighbors in need.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As inflation continues to set records and the price of necessities like food and gas soar higher and higher, families are struggling to keep up. It's being felt all over the country, but low income neighborhoods like Grand Rapids' 49507 zip code are feeling the squeeze more than most.

"This area is classified as a food desert for the black and brown community," said Samika Douglas, Senior Community Liaison with LINC UP. "The food is coming in not good... some of it is rotten." Douglas and her organization are hoping to give some relief to their neighbors who already face difficulties accessing healthy and affordable food.

Saturday morning, more than 9,000 pounds of food was unloaded from a truck and set up in the parking lot of the Greater Christ Temple Deliverance Church on Jefferson Avenue for distribution. The spread was not a basic canned food pickup — the goal was to provide healthy and fresh options at no cost. Anyone could come and get groceries, no questions asked. The only requirement was registration, which allows LINC UP to collect demographic data, which they use for further grant and donation applications to fund their programs.

Tomatoes, grapes, peaches, eggs, cheese, milk and pork loin were all given out fresh, not canned or preserved. Bags of Chex Mix and canned tomato soup were also given out as pantry staples to each household that came. In just three hours, the group served more than 160 households. 

"You could come here, get produce and offset the cost," Douglas said. "Use the money to pay for the meats that are going up. We could figure different ways around it, just erase the stigma and come on out." Douglas and her fellow volunteers relate to the people they are serving. Many have relied on LINC UP or other food pantries in the past, and some volunteering relied on Saturday's pantry to fill their grocery needs for that week. 

"I feel like we’re brought on this earth not only to help ourselves, but to help others," said Sheila Ewing, a Fellow with LINC UP. Ewing has gotten assistance not just for food from the organization, but as a first time homeowner, as well. "For those out there that feel embarrassed there’s no need to be embarrassed because we all go there some time in our life."

LINC UP is planning another mobile food pantry for the community on Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. at 1167 Madison Ave. SE. 

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