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Little Pantry at Grace Lutheran thriving

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Mary Lappan holds a can of tomato soup, one of the many nonperishable and household items available for free from Grace Lutheran Church’s Little Food Pantry. Donations are always appreciated, as pantry use has been steady even before the pandemic started. The pantry offers paper goods, shelf-stable milk, toiletries, feminine hygiene products and more. The pantry is located at Gracee Lutheran Church, 119 W. Dunbar St. in Alpena. There is a small white pantry out front, and the above cabinet has been added inside the foyer, available 24 hours a day.

ALPENA — A little goes a long way, especially in a pandemic. The Little Food Pantry at Grace Lutheran Church in Alpena has been steadily used and restocked during the pandemic, according to pantry coordinator Mary Lappan.

When the pantry was started in December 2018, it consisted of just the outdoor pantry and a table inside the foyer for goods that should not freeze. Now there is a large cabinet stocked with nonperishable foods and household items such as toilet paper, shampoo and soap.

Lappan said the pantry has provided for a need in this community that was there even before the pandemic. She noted that more people may be using it now, if they had lost their jobs or experienced hardship relating to the pandemic.

Anyone can use the pantry, and anyone can drop off nonperishable goods. They cannot accept goods that need to be refrigerated.

“We just want people to have food,” Lappan said. “Quick things like rices, prepackaged stuff, are going very quickly. Anything that’s quick and easy to fix.”

Vicky Denstaedt wrote a grant for the Little Food Pantry, which includes the following explanation:

“Food insecurity has grown in the area, along with unemployment, as the COVID pandemic happened. There is not an accurate way to know the number of individuals who use it, but currently, our team of church volunteers are stocking shelves several days a week and spending on average $300 per week. The money comes from grants and donations from our community.”

Lappan has about six volunteers who come help stock and organize the pantry, and they try to offer as much healthy food as possible, and a variety of options.

“I come from public education, 30 years of teaching in the elementary,” Lappan noted. “There was a need then, and now with COVID and so forth, there’s much more of a need. I think our numbers indicate that we have lots of free and reduced lunch kids in our school system, and I think hunger is just out there. We’re not asking any questions. It’s 24/7. I don’t want to compete with another food pantry — there are other food pantries that do things, but I think that there’s a need for our little group, too.”

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