Despite distance from social orders and staying at home, food pantry and other food aid continue in Copper Country, with a few additions and few changes.
“We continue to distribute food,” said Tom Vichich, who coordinates volunteers at St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry in Hancock with his wife, Vicky.
The Pantry serves a large portion of the Houghton area, with the exception of the CLK school district, which is served by another pantry. Vicky said that while some of their regular food recipients stayed at home because of health problems surrounding the pandemic, local layoffs had caused new people to ask for help too.
Distribution continued on Wednesday, but they restricted their building to 5 people, and all volunteers had put on masks and gloves.
With the churches and the second-hand shop next to it closed, the usual way for the food pantry to accept donations is not available. On Thursday, they tried a two-hour gathering at a food pantry to collect food and donate money.
“We were quite successful considering the notification was only two days,” Said Vicky.
Collecting food on Thursday allows them to leave it on the table for most of the week before volunteers date and sort it out, giving coronavirus plenty of time to dry up and die. They will gather again this Thursday, at 10 am to noon at the food pantry, where they will decide whether to continue with the weekly collection. Monetary donations are used to supplement basic needs, buy perishable food, and provide cleaning supplies and paper that cannot be purchased with the help of government food.
Jean LaBerge, Executive Director at the Community Action Agency in Houghton said that they would have a lot of help available to people, just call 906-482-5528. At this time he said most of the food, but if people call with other needs, they will do anything to help. Some of their programs have been temporarily suspended, but are expected to continue.
“They can still call and get their names on the list,” LaBerge said.
Their staff were in the same building, wearing masks and gloves and practicing social distance, but the doors to the office remained locked. Food is being packaged by office staff so that volunteers do not need to come to the building.
“We try to do whatever we can with who we have here,” LaBerge said. “It’s difficult but so far we are fine.”
Emergency food aid is currently being put outside to be taken, and drive-thru are being prepared for food kitchens and senior food.
“We will just open their doors and put the boxes in,” LaBerge said.
Both LaBerge and Vichich say that while normal supplies have been disrupted, nothing is immediately alarming.
Lots of noodles and soup usually donated to St. Vincent, but without regular donations, they are almost gone, but when Vicky buys food for St. Vincent, he tries to avoid buying large quantities of noodles or soup.
“I hate taking all that off the shelf,” she says.
He can get some from the CAA food bank instead for now.
LaBerge said some high-demand items from Feeding America, one of their main suppliers, were not available because the company sells them to stores now rather than donating.
“No one has hurt us, except it’s hard to work like this,” she says.
The Salvation Army in Hancock also still distributes food, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:00 to 15:00. Salvation Salvation Brenda DeLacy’s envoy said they asked the recipient to ring the bell at the door and they would take out food bags that had been pre-packed. They ask only one person to come to the house per household, and bring an identity card with a picture. For other types of assistance, or to make special food pickup arrangements, contact the office at 906-482-3420.
DeLacy said for those who want to help, monetary donations allow them to buy what is needed. They can be sent to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 389, Hancock, MI, 49930.
The Trinity Episcopal Church in Houghton actually started a new food kitchen about a month ago. According to their Senior Warden, Valri Peyser, the launch was not linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was timely. The church does everything they can to follow social distance guidelines while supplying those in need with food and cleaning supplies and paper products.
“Anyone can enter, you don’t need to be approved or on multiple lists or whatever, it’s just open to everyone,” Peyser said.
Pantry is open on the first and third Thursday of every month starting at 10:30 in the morning until noon.
“We just want to help people who need it, and make it easy for them to have other choices,” Peyser said.
For more information or to make a donation, contact the church at 906-482-2010, or you can send items in their mailbox on 205 Montezuma St. at Houghton.