​BUFFALO, N.Y. — ​Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church, located at 641 Masten Ave., founded the First Fruits Food Pantry in September 2020 as a direct response to families struggling at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when inflation has made healthy eating more expensive than it typically is.

"I’m blown away with a can of green beans being $0.75 for one can. How do you make that a meal for a family of four? Everybody gets a quarter of a can of green beans? That’s outrageous," said Rita Hubbard-Robinson, First Fruits Food Pantry volunteer coordinator.

What You Need To Know

  • Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church founded First Fruits Food Pantry to assist families battling food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing fresh produce and meats

  • The pantry gives out bags of groceries every Tuesday and Saturday

  • Common pantry donations like canned goods contain preservatives that can cause health issues like hypertension and diabetes

  • Studies have shown that unhealthy food donations and social stigmas are linked to higher rates of food insecurity and obesity among pantry clients

What makes this pantry different is that the church goes the extra mile to include fresh options in every bag, from produce to protein-rich meats.

In nicer weather, the church provides vegetables from its very own community garden. Health is at the foundation of each bag that gets assembled because typical food donations like canned goods are high in sodium-packed preservatives, which can cause serious health issues, especially within underserved communities.

A study from the University of Connecticut revealed how unhealthy food donations and social stigmas are linked to higher rates of food insecurity and obesity among pantry clients.

"Diabetes, heart disease and obesity are areas in which we can change with better nutrition, and so it’s a driver to premature loss of life," Hubbard-Robinson said.

Neighbors of the church from Canisius College’s women’s basketball team have been volunteering since August 2021, and they are in full support of fighting food insecurity while doing a good deed.

"I think it’s super important, especially with the food that they provide because I know a lot of the food that’s provided here is to help with health, to help during these hard times, and a lot of the food is just great options and I think it’s really awesome what they’re doing here," said Lydia Gattozzi, a pantry volunteer and member of Canisius' women’s basketball team.

The contents of these bags are as good for the body as they are for the mind and soul, as those who utilize the pantry take solace in not having to wonder whether they can afford to eat healthy, or eat at all.

"We had a gentleman come and he picked up his bags of groceries, and you can see that he had a meager situation, and he could hardly walk to his car. He was just in tears because he did not know where he was going to get his food from. So, we are really helping people, all kinds of people. People are struggling and they’re struggling in a number of different ways," Hubbard-Robinson said.