Story Spotlight: Immanuel Community Reformed Church Mobile Food Pantry

Joe Chahine, former GLFB board chair, at Immanuel Community Reformed Church during a mobile food pantry distribution.

For former Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB) Board Chair Joe Chahine, helping neighbors experience the full effect of a nourishing life is personal.

Joe was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and lived there until he was 14 years old, relying on United Nations support to meet basic needs like medical care and education — still, food was often scarce, and Joe experienced the reality of hunger firsthand.

In early 2022, he helped establish a mobile food pantry at his church, Immanuel Community Reformed Church on Delta River Dr. in Lansing, after seeing his mid-Michigan neighbors experiencing the same reality of hunger he knew as a child.

“You have to have blinders on not to see people struggling,” Joe said when speaking about his inspiration to start a mobile food pantry. “We see every month, people asking, ‘Do I get what I need to feed myself, or do I worry about my medicine?’”

Mobile food pantry distributions happen throughout the month across GLFB’s seven-county service area to help ensure no neighbor must choose between feeding themselves and their families, and purchasing medications, paying bills or making other necessary purchases for a healthy, happy life. Many pantries — like the one at Immanuel Community Reformed Church — take place consistently month to month. These distributions are essential for approximately 82,000 mid-Michigan neighbors experiencing food insecurity.

Speaking to the critical need these mobile food pantries help meet, Joe shared a story of meeting a neighbor who had come to line up at the church hours before the distribution was set to begin.

“She had been waiting since 4:30 in the morning with a blanket on, car turned off. I said, ‘Why have you been waiting so long?’ and she said, ‘Well, I want to make sure I get food,” Joe shared. “That really stuck with me. Thanks to the food bank that you keep meeting the need here.”

Over the course of 2023, GLFB has seen a 35 percent increase in the number of neighbors seeking support to keep food on their tables. In a time of continued, unprecedented inflation and rising food costs, the need for neighbors like Joe to come together to support their communities, in partnership with GLFB, will continue to grow — because when neighbors are fed, futures are nourished.

“Our mission at the church is to feed the body and the soul,” Joe said. “We feed the soul by worshipping every Sunday, and now we’re going to feed our community.”

This Hunger Action Month, find your seat at the table to help neighbors, children and families in need experience the full effect of access to adequate, nutritious food. Find a volunteer shift at a mobile food pantry like Joe’s by visiting GLFB’s volunteer portal, and consider extending your impact beyond September by volunteering throughout the year.

Hunger Action Month is an annual nationwide month of action, hosted every September by the Feeding America network, to spread awareness and inspire everyone to join the movement to end hunger.