Low summer food pantry inventory the driving force to creating Christmas in June

The holidays are a time for family gatherings, dinner parties, gift giving, hot cocoa by the fire, and of course, generosity. This is the one time of the year where it seems that just like the Grinch, our hearts grow a few sizes bigger and we begin to look outside ourselves a bit more. If you visit a local food pantry around this time, you will see that this really is the case. When you walk into a pantry, it’s aglow, with angels singing as you view all the donated items lined perfectly on the shelves, just waiting to be served on Christmas Eve. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic! But there is something spectacular about a stocked food pantry.

The holidays pass and the snow begins to melt away as we enter a new season. What we may not realize is that as spring arrives, our donations to the pantries also fade away. What does not disappear, though, is hunger. Therefore, “Christmas in June” was born. Last year, United Way launched this event for the first time, asking local businesses to hold food drives for 22 local pantries, thereby giving our low-income, hard-working families access to more food options throughout the summer months. What we discovered is that the people of this community did not grow their hearts bigger during the holidays—they had been that big all along! Together, six months after the hype of the holidays had passed, 34 businesses helped collect 15,000 items to fill the shelves of the pantries. This speaks volumes about the residents of Southwest Michigan. Maybe there is a sprinkle of “generous sugar” that they put in their hot cocoa but we may never know—what we do know is that when we come together and work as a team, we all win.

One pantry in Coloma told us that they serve more than 140 families per month. That is just one pantry out of the 32 that will be benefitting from the event this year. It’s clear that we need to continue working together to combat food insecurity year-round.  It’s a good thing that as we glide through the month of May, it’s beginning to look a lot like … “Christmas in June,” once again!

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