Postcard: When elk is for dinner

A postcard that says "Greetings From Cheboygan" with a picture of Mackinac Island fudge

Food pantries aren’t just about generic foods poor people can use to stretch their grocery dollar. Some days there’s fudge. (Bridge photo by Nancy Derringer)

NEXT POSTCARD: Luxe life at Bay Harbor reflects changing economy →

If you’re fortunate, you’ll never have to rely on a food pantry for dinner. If you’re really fortunate, you’ll get to spend some time in one. On this day, at the Salvation Army emergency food pantry in Cheboygan – admission by appointment and application only, limited to one visit every 60 days – volunteers Sylvia Sanford and Dawn Pavwoski are escorting clients through the small space every 10 minutes or so. The choices are...eclectic: canned sardines and a seasoning mix for Asian fish tacos, store-brand cereal (Crispy Hexagons), jarred pimentos, even some Mackinac fudge. There is a whole case of Chinese hot-and-sour soup broth. And that’s before you even get to the freezer.

“Can you use some elk today?” Sanford asks. One row on the door is lined with two-pound packages of ground elk, harvested from the local herd just south of here. Most clients say yes. “I tell them to brown it and add some tomato sauce and seasonings,” Sanford said later. “I don’t want it to go to waste.”

Food pantries rely on a mixed bag of day-old bakery leftovers, food-drive donations and excess stock culled by wholesalers who sell truckloads in bulk. On any given day there may be tea cookies, premium brand names (the sardines were Bumblebee; the beans, Progresso) or more ethnic seasonings like Jamaican jerk sauce or a bottle of turmeric in addition to the usual fare of canned soups, peanut butter and jelly and such. “You can add those canned vegetables to the beef stew, make it go a little further,” Sanford advises one woman, a young mother with two young sons waiting back home. The woman mentions that peanut butter is the boys’ favorite food.

Sanford tucks another jar into her box.

– Nancy Derringer

NEXT POSTCARD: Luxe life at Bay Harbor reflects changing economy →

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.