Shore Story: Helping others find food when they need it most

This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore, columns by local and former residents about their lives. 

“Do you know a place where I could get a little food to get us through the weekend? I have an appointment with a food pantry on Tuesday morning, but all we have left is one box of macaroni and cheese.” This was a message I received on a Friday evening from a member of Helping Holland/Zeeland - Community Support, a Facebook page created to help connect community members with resources.
Gina Fairfield
As a page administrator, I had received many messages from people who needed help before, but the follow-up conversation with this particular woman was an eye opener. A single parent, working full time, and struggling to pay her bills each month, she was in the process of applying for assistance, a process that takes time. She told me that, as hard as it was seeing her three children cry from hunger, it was harder watching her 9-year-old put on a brave face. The oldest would often give some of his food to his younger siblings and choose to go to bed early in an attempt to sleep off the hunger. The thought of this mother facing a weekend filled with hunger broke my heart. With help from the group, I was able to gather enough food to feed the family for several days. The situation got me thinking. There had to be a better way to ensure that no one in our area faced days with no access to food.

A search for food pantries eventually resulted in my learning of a small network of micro-pantries in the Zeeland area, run by His Harvest Stand Ministries. These mini pantries are similar to the Little Free Library concept, but with food, personal care items, and household supplies. They are outdoors and available 24/7 for anyone who needs them. There is no qualification process, no questions asked, and anyone can donate by simply placing items in the pantry. Harvest Stand’s network was a great start, but what about people who lived too far for those pantries to be easy to access? 
Little free pantries allow neighbors to drop off everything from nonperishable food to toiletries to books, and makes them available 24 hours a day to anyone who might need something in that moment.
I enlisted the community’s help to identify mini pantry locations all over the Holland/Zeeland area by posting the question on local Facebook pages and was encouraged by the response. I called churches and community organizations, and drove around to see the pantries in person. I wanted to see how easy they were to find and how well-stocked they were. A few were empty, but most had a moderate variety of canned goods, pasta, rice, and a few personal care items. Some even had a selection of diapers and feminine hygiene products, items that are often overlooked. My hope is that by sharing the list of pantry locations, our community can build a strong network of well-stocked pantries so that no person faces a weekend of hunger.  

The “Helping Holland/Zeeland - Community Support” Facebook group was initially formed during 2020 to help people deal with all the challenges of the pandemic. I was invited to join by a friend and later asked to help administer, because I was a regular contributor. Our purpose evolved over time. We now focus on connecting people with resources and promoting local businesses/events in an effort to build a strong community. As someone who once had to make hard decisions between paying a utility bill and putting food on the table, I know how it feels to face the stress of that insecurity daily. Fighting hunger has become a passion of mine. Raising awareness of the mini pantry movement is just one small way I can help.

I’d like to challenge our community to do two things. 1. Share this list of mini pantries widely to increase awareness. 2. Make a habit of stopping by a mini pantry regularly with an item or two to donate.

Eventually, I’d love to see more pantries established and am working on connecting with local organizations regarding locations, funding, and other details. 

Mini Pantry Locations


Overisel Christian Reformed Church
4724 142nd Ave., Holland

Central Park Church
614 Myrtle Ave., Holland

Blessing Box
Corner of  E 48th St and Cranberry Ct., Holland

Peace Lutheran Church
389 James St., Holland

Calvary Church
400 Beeline Road., Holland

Lakeshore Holland Church of Christ
711 Butternut Dr., Holland

Macatawa Resource Center
665 136th Ave., Holland
*two boxes, one on front of building and one on side

Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity ReStore
12727 Riley St., Holland
*located inside the store, accessible during store business hours

The Bridge Youth Center
210 E Main Ave., Zeeland

Drenthe Christian Reformed Church
6344 Adams St., Zeeland

Community Reformed Church
10376 Felch St., Zeeland

Third Christian Reformed Church
10 W Central Ave., Zeeland

The Foundry Church
425 100th St., Zeeland

The Momentum Center
401 N Seventh St., Grand Haven

Cheshire Township Little Free Pantry
280 42nd St., Allegan
*by appointment, call (269) 823-6123 or “Book Now” on their Facebook page

Gina Fairfield lives in Park Township and is retired from her jobs as a special education assistant for West Ottawa Public Schools and as a restaurant server. She encourages anyone who knows of other mini-pantries in the area to contact her on Facebook.
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