By Jeremy C. Nagel
By day Karly Creguer works as a health educator based at MSU Extension’s Caro office. Outside that institution she moonlights as a mild-mannered Farm Bureau do-gooder. Last month offered an opportunity to bring both roles together as the organizer of Tuscola County Farm Bureau’s first pop-up food pantry.
“It overlapped nicely with what I do for Extension’s Health & Nutrition Institute. We do a lot of community nutrition education, working with communities to help make healthier food choices easier choices to make.”
“We wanted to try something new,” Creguer said. “We’d never done a pop-up pantry so we put a little spin on the idea to make it a little healthier.”
Starting with resources from the Michigan Bean Commission and United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Creuger’s team lined up an inventory of healthy ingredients to distribute to community members in need of nourishment.
“We did different stations based on food groups — fruit, vegetables, meat,” Creguer said. “We wanted to try to make it healthier and incorporate as much choice as possible. At meat table we asked each person if they wanted chicken, pork or beef — we even had some fish for people who wanted it.”
The Feb. 24 drive-through event routed participants through the county fairgrounds, where volunteers had tables arranged for each station.
“People could open their trunk and our volunteers would put packages of food in their car,” Creguer said. “It was all contactless to keep everyone staying safe.”
Staffing the stations was a slew of volunteers from the Tuscola County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, Young Farmer and Promotion & Education Committees, and even a couple staff members.
“We also partnered with two local food pantries who volunteered during the distribution,” Creguer said. “There were probably 20 to 25 volunteers who helped out altogether.”
Ensuring nobody was left behind, steps were taken to ensure older adults without transportation could still take advantage of the giveaway.
“A couple weeks beforehand I reached out to the Caro Senior Commons, a housing facility for low-income seniors,” Creguer said. “They had interested residents complete order forms which we picked up and packaged at the distribution. Then the Commons’ services coordinator came to pick up the packages for those 17 individuals.”
Another volunteer delivered food packages for 15 veterans around the Thumb who weren’t able to leave their homes.
“I was glad we could still reach people who lacked transportation or are home-bound. They probably would not have been able to receive the food assistance otherwise.”
Bolstering the donations total was a contribution from Farm Bureau Insurance’s Agent Charitable Fund, matching the county board’s contribution for a $1,200 total.
At the end of the day, more than 750 local men, women and children benefitted from Tuscola’s efforts: 260 families from almost 30 area towns. Almost 16,800 pounds of food went home with teenagers, senior citizens and everyone in between feeling the crush of food instability.