Weather, Washington Mean Long Lines at Mobile Pantry

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There's a certain camaraderie shared by the people in line at the Lansing mobile food pantry.

"We all have stories about where we gonna get our food? How we gonna eat?" said Stephen Cook-Garmyn, a lifelong Lansing resident.

For Cook-Garmyn and his family of five, the answer has been the mobile food pantry.

"We don't have hardly nothing coming in and that's why we're here," he said Saturday. "We're all in the same boat together in Michigan. We're all here, we're hungry. If it weren't for the mobile food pantry, I don't know where my family food would be coming from."

Cook-Garmyn is legally blind and receives disability pay. His wife lost her job at the health department in October and lost her unemployment benefits the next month, he said.

And with Congress gridlocked on once again extending unemployment benefits, the most Cook-Garmyn says he can do is try his best to make ends meet.

"We're just trying. That's all we can do and we just have to have an open mind and smile because you can't be gloomy you can't get upset.," he said. "It's been tough but by the grace of God we're here at the food pantry getting our food to help."

People like Cook-Garmyn are part of the reason the lines at the mobile food bank are getting longer and longer, despite an increase in food drops at senior and high-rise public housing sites.

"I think a lot of people are just struggling and as you know that the new changes with the unemployment, the termination of those benefits, we see a few new faces here today," said Joan Jackson Johnson, the mobile pantry's director.

All 40,000 pounds of food in stock would be gone within hours, she said, picked up by nearly 600 hungry families.

"Everyone's out here based on needs, no one's out here just to come," she said. "We've got to continue to address the food needs, we've gotta make sure the basic human needs -- food, shelter, clothing -- are being addressed in our community."

People started lining up at Tabernacle of David Church as early as 11 p.m. Friday to secure their spot in line. Part of the reason for the increased demand is the weather, Johnson said. People are still reeling from storms and power outages from weeks past, and frigid temperatures are expected for the week ahead.

"What brings me out here is the recession and the weather and the way we are just struggling trying to survive," said Ammerah Muhammad, who has lived in Lansing for 14 years. "You'd be surprised how many people are hungry in the state of Michigan."

But Muhammad says she's keeping a positive attitude, like a lot of the people in line Saturday morning.

"When people come together like this it even makes it warmer so that we're not freezing," she said. "Keep hope alive, stay strong and this too shall pass."

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