Neighbors Are ‘Part of the Family’ at Lake County Mobile Pantry

A volunteer holds onions

Pieter sits in his car waiting for the Mobile Pantry

Pieter loves pouring his homemade maple syrup on everything.

Every winter, he taps the maple trees surrounding his home to make gallons of the delicious syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup—all of which must be boiled first on his wooden stove.

Like many Lake County residents, Pieter relies on a wood stove for heating and cooking. These days, he can’t cut his own wood, but friends and relatives are quick to help. A retired senior, Pieter thinks this may be the last year he feels spry enough to make maple syrup, but he hopes someone in his community will take over his trees.

Pieter’s fixed income doesn’t always stretch far enough, so he attends Mobile Food Pantries hosted in the community to help keep his fridge and pantry stocked. He also picks up food for some friends in need.

“They don’t drive, so they asked if I could [pick up for them] and I said ‘it’s no problem.’ I enjoy getting all the food they give [at the Mobile Pantry] because, whether it’s vegetables or canned, it’s good.”

A volunteer holds onions

Pieter emigrated from Sicily to the U.S. when he was 14, first settling near Detroit with his family. He eventually served in the Army. A couple of decades ago, he moved to Lake County because of his love for hunting.

Like Pieter, many Lake County residents move to the area after retirement to pursue their love of outdoor activities. As they age, however, these activities become more difficult, and the distance from relatives, grocery stores and other resources puts them at risk of many challenges, like food insecurity. However, for many of these neighbors, simply being close to nature is worth the challenges.

“A lot of our people, myself included, wouldn’t do well in the city. These people are very independent,” explained Dan, pastor of Edgetts Wesleyan Church, which hosts a few Mobile Pantries each year.

Dan (right) works hard each month to put on the Mobile Pantry.
Dan (right) works hard each month to put on the Mobile Pantry.

Parts of Lake County, especially in the region surrounding Edgetts, are a resource “dead spot,” according to Dan. Neighbors must drive far for groceries and employment. This distance from resources is one reason Lake County has the highest food insecurity rate in our service area—18.1 percent of neighbors is food insecure. In our service area overall, it’s 12.1 percent.

Mobile Pantries bring fresh produce and other nutritious foods to under-resourced regions like Lake County and serve anyone in need, with few questions asked. This model is a great way to provide food for older neighbors, who may not want to seek help from a traditional food pantry or apply for government hunger-relief programs, even if they would qualify. They may see receiving food from a church as less stigmatizing. Other independent neighbors in the county may similarly prefer receiving food from a Mobile Pantry hosted at a church like Edgetts.

In Lake County, neighbors at times live off the grid without electricity or modern amenities. Some do so because they prefer the lifestyle, while others do so out of necessity.

No matter their circumstance, Dan takes a moment to welcome and chat with attendees when he can.

For Pieter, this is a highlight of his visit:

“I enjoy coming here and I especially enjoy meeting the pastor, even just to say a little prayer. It makes you feel like part of the family,” he said. “This is a godsend. It helps out everybody. I like that very much.”

Feeding America West Michigan provides more than 100 Mobile Food Pantries to communities across our service area every month. We’re able to run this program thanks to the help of many, including the volunteers at Edgetts Wesleyan Church.

This program is funded in part by the Lake County Community Foundation. Thank you!