Lakeland Pantry ready to provide food, clothing, and personal items to more families
Kathy Blackburn is quick to point out that the Lakeland Pantry is not quite the typical food pantry.
“If you look at the sign out there it says ‘Lakeland Pantry’ not ‘Lakeland Food Pantry’ because we have so much more than just food,” said Blackburn.
She and Director Lorna Springate proudly tour the pantry that features clothing for all ages and sizes, including winter gear. There are books, magazines, personal items like toilet paper and toothpaste as well as a wide range of food items.
With the help of donations and grants the Lakeland Pantry was able to add additional warehouse and freezer spaces to their building last year.
It helps them not only hold all the perishable items they get in, but they can also hold shipments for other area food pantries.
With all the extra space, the pantry is now looking for more people to serve.
Springate says their numbers dropped during the pandemic but have slowly been going back up as pandemic-era benefits have ended.
“Right now, we’re back up on a two-day week we’re getting close to 400. On a one-day week, we’re probably getting 120, 130,” said Springate.
People are split into different groups with different distribution days and times and have 14 days between visits.
Springate says with the extra SNAP benefits coming to an end soon, the Lakeland Pantry is getting ready to help more people.
“A lot of people have been coming in to re-register. We are well positioned to handle it. We handled it before COVID. I think we’re pretty well positioned to handle the influx of people coming back in,” said Springate.
The Lakeland Pantry does have some income requirements.
People need to register and self-declare.
“They don’t need to prove their income. If they say they make zero we take them at their word,” she said.
Springate encourages people who are struggling with food insecurity to call 211.
It’s a United Way line that can help connect you with the resources closest to you.
“They will suggest in their area the different pantries or churches or other organizations to go to. They know what the guidelines are as far as the monies go per month,” said Springate.
You can also call the Lakeland Pantry at 715-358-2222.
For those that work and volunteer at the Lakeland Pantry like Springate and Blackburn, the pantry is more than providing people with basic needs.
It’s about building a community.
“It’s a social event for a lot of people,” said Blackburn. “They’ll spend an hour or two here, the volunteers too.”
“That’s what makes it fun. You get to know the kids. It’s like one big happy family,” added volunteer Ginny Buzzell
It’s a family they’re looking to grow in the future.