By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
After 16 months of delivering groceries to clients by curbside pickup, Oxford/Orion FISH will fully re-open for in-person shopping on July 13. The pantry will be closed July 1-12, as it prepares to reopen in-person service.
The pantry, located 1060 S. Lapeer Rd., provided a vital lifeline to those experiencing food security during the pandemic in Oxford, Orion, Addison and Oakland townships. FISH volunteers streamlined the process by pre-packaging boxes of groceries based on family size, since clients were not allowed to enter the pantry to shop for themselves.
Clients would call ahead to schedule a pickup time, then volunteers would bag up their order on their pickup day and load the groceries in a shopping cart. Perishable items (meats, dairy and bread) would be loaded into the cart last, about 15 minutes before the scheduled pickup time. When clients arrived, they would stay in their cars while a volunteer would load the food order in their trunk.
It was a time-consuming process, and volunteers could not handle long lists of individualized food choices. Opening the pantry again will allow clients to do their own shopping, which will give them more options and agency over their food choices.
Meanwhile, the pantry’s community garden is growing fresh vegetables that will add to the healthy food choices available to clients when the pantry reopens. This year, the garden is led by Elisabeth Hoogendoorn. The garden has assorted squashes, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, peas and pumpkins.
“Elisabeth has been volunteering at the garden for the past few years,” said FISH secretary Sue Black, the previous garden manager. “She’s very knowledgeable and has taken the lead in managing the garden this year. Our thanks go to her, all the volunteers, and to Dan Davis for providing his property and water and additional volunteer help.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming school year, the pantry is now collecting school supplies and backpacks for students from low-income families in Oxford and Orion school districts. “Please consider contributing to our backpack program of outreach to the school-aged children of FISH families,” requests Lynn Kennis, the program organizer.
Needed are backpacks and supplies: lined paper, pocket folders, pencils, pencil cases, mechanical pencils, highlighters, Sharpies, magic markers, colored pencils, notebooks, ink pens and scissors. Donors can drop off items at the FISH pantry from 9:40 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Thursday until Aug. 18. Cash donations are also welcomed. Simply note that the donation is for school supplies.
By James Hanlon