Foods for Living Offers a rainbow after Friday's Storm

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Thursday, July 14, 2016, 7:00 am
Karessa Wheeler

When last week’s storm hit East Lansing, Foods for Living grocery store lost power for more than 30 hours. But what they found in their time of darkness was a sense of community.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday July 9, Foods for Living put a post on their Facebook page asking for people or organizations who need food to come and get their dairy and deli foods before they spoiled. The post was shared more than 168 times. By 2:20 p.m. they had updated the post to say that all the food had been given away.

“The positive feedback and support we have received has made this tragedy a lot easier on us. We couldn’t do this without our loyal customers,” the post read.

After the power went out 6:30 p.m. Friday, store manager Chris Faulkner was hopeful it would be turned back on quickly. But by early Saturday morning, it was clear that the Lansing Board of Water and Light was not going to get the power back on any time soon, and the temperature was rising. Frozen foods were able to be kept in refrigerated trucks for a few hours but other perishable foods were going to go bad quickly without refrigeration.

“We had to do something with this food, if we weren’t going to be able to save it,” he said. Employees started making calls to local organizations but the idea really took off with the Facebook post. People starting showing up at the store with a variety of emotions and reactions.

“Some were trying hard to help others. Some were very sad about our situation,” he said. “The majority of the people were respectful and understanding and were really trying to make something positive out of the situation.”

One of the recipients of the generosity of Foods for Living was the organization Homeless Angels which calls itself a “street-based outreach in Lansing Michigan.” Started eleven years ago by Mike Karl after he became homeless, Homeless Angels operates out of the Magnuson Hotel in Lansing. They have provided beds and food to thousands of homeless families in the region, including nearly 4,000 children.

On Saturday, Homeless Angels received two loads of meats, cheeses, deli meals, salads, juices, milk and yogurt. The dairy products were especially appreciated by the 30 children the organization fed last weekend, said Linda Karl, mother of the founder. Overall, the food went to more than 80 people currently staying at the hotel and more who drop in for meals, she said.

“Most stores would throw everything out but for them to donate to people in need is just the biggest blessing,” Linda Karl said. “I hope everyone goes there and buys things. They didn’t have to do that but they reached out to the community and that says a lot about them, the owners and the employees.”

Volunteer Sue Lantz made two trips to the store after seeing the Facebook post. On the first trip, she picked up meats, meals and sandwiches and then made a return trip for the milk and yogurt, specifically with the children in mind, Linda said.

“These children come from families who are very, very poor. Some of them have no more than $16 a month in food stamps which doesn’t go very far. We have some milk here, but never enough. For those kids to have milk and yogurt and fresh veggies, it was a wonderful treat and such a blessing,” she said.

The organization praised the efforts on their own Facebook page and Linda hopes other stores will follow the example and make more donations to organizations who feed the hungry.

“They lost power and didn’t want to see all this amazing food go to waste so now it will be a blessing to our community,” Homeless Angels posted on their Facebook page. “Last month we helped 94 families with food and we know this will be a great addition to our food baskets this month!”

Other recipients included Haven House, the MSU Food Bank and many individuals.

Foods for Living had power restored in the early morning hours of Sunday July 10 and by Tuesday afternoon, had fully restocked their dairy and deli departments. The aftermath showed them not only how integrated they are with the community but also how much of a family the employees are, Faulkner said.

“We have such great team members. Everybody worked great together to get it reloaded,” he said. “It was actually a great team building exercise.”

The store is still calculating its losses from the storm, and is working with its insurance company. Faulkner estimates it will be in the tens of thousands of dollars in loss.

“We know we lost $6,000 in ice cream alone,” he said.

But he is hopeful that the store will benefit from good karma following its generosity. Faulkner said many of its regular customers, and several new ones, have approached him in the store this week to thank him for the store’s action and to promise their continued loyalty. This is especially important to Foods for Living following the opening of Whole Foods just down the street earlier this summer. The full impact of the Austin Texas-based chain store’s opening won’t be felt until the fall, Faulkner said.

“I think we will be ok. Local matters to a lot of people,” he said.

Foods for Living, located at 2655 E. Grand River Ave., has been an East Lansing grocery store for more than 19 years. It specializes in fresh, natural, organic and whole foods. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info