The Greater Work

Three years after the coronavirus pandemic first took hold, its myriad impacts are still being felt in communities across Michigan. And for some families, the personal and economic consequences still take their toll.

Fortunately, organizations like Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County are offering much-needed support in the face of ongoing challenges.

“We are still much busier than we were before the pan-demic,” says Emma Beltowski, food pantry program coordinator for Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County. “We’re open on Tuesdays and Thursdays for curbside grocery pickup, and we see be-tween 60 and 70 families come through each day. It’s a lot.”

It’s also a situation that’s unlikely to improve soon. Many federal pandemic relief benefits for families are expiring this year, and that’s going to leave many families’ nutritional needs unmet.

“Our organization and its food bank are here to help people regardless of the situations that bring them to us,” Emma says. “Sometimes the need is just situational and limited, where a person is having a hard time for a short period, while other folks have long-term needs requiring more. We are here to leverage all of it.”The food pantry distributes groceries and personal care items to low-income individ-uals and families regularly and in emergencies. Financial support from the Diocesan Services Appeal, contributions from local Catholic churches, and food drives support them, as well as a grant from Food Gatherers, which allows for the distribution of meat, dairy, and other perishable items.

"Our organization and its food bank are here to help people regardless of the situations that bring them to us."

“People can stop in once each week to pick up the groceries they need,” Emma says. “We also ensure they can get referrals to other agencies for clothing and critical services.”

Families can shop once a week to receive a pantry-stable bag containing items like rice, cereal, and peanut butter, as well as meat, fresh vegetables, and milk. Diapers, formula, baby food, and wipes are available upon request.

Despite the generosity of many food pantry donors, inflation has taken its toll.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have the support of caring individuals and organizations across our community, but it’s not always easy for us to procure the items we need, especially when the number of people being served increases,” Emma says. “How-ever, we’re determined to be there for the people who need us. Our job is to get enough people on their feet that our services are no longer need-ed. We want to be part of a solution that ultimately ends hunger in our community.”

For Emma, the work she does is profoundly personal, even spiritual.

“I have a strong human services background, and my bachelor’s degree is in social work,” she says. “I love helping people get through their toughest moments, so they can be part of our community in all the ways they most want to. It’s that type of nurturing work that most brings me joy.”

CSSW is proud to partner with Food Gatherers to distribute groceries and personal care items to low-income families and individuals on a monthly and/or emergency basis. Clients are also given referrals to other agencies for clothing and other critical services as needed on Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m.–12 p.m.

Food Pantry location:

Northside Community Center

815 Taylor, Ann Arbor | 734-662-4462

  • Food and non-perishable donations are accepted and can be dropped off during the food pantry’s hours of distribution!
  • Current needs include diapers sizes 5 and 6, Pull-Ups (any size), and nutritional supplements like Ensure or Boost.
  • Please call 734-662-4462 to schedule an appointment for a donation drop-off.