Imagine going to bed on a Tuesday night without knowing if you would have dinner on Wednesday. That feeling of uncertainty is a reality for 3,500 children in Platte County every night. Food insecurity is a real issue facing many families, and not just the families that most consider 'low income'. For those families, food pantries can be the stop gap that they need to get back on their feet. Many turn to Harvesters Food Bank. Now, they can find relief a little closer to home at Mimi's Pantry in Riverside.
Mimi's Pantry, which opened in June, has been the passion project of real estate mogul Dennis Curtin. Curtin, who was the first RE/MAX franchise ever in 1975, may seem removed from food insecurity, but he remembers lean times growing up. His mother, Lillian 'Mimi' Curtin, ran a small cafe and supermarket deli and would often extend compassion to families that were struggling because she knew what it felt like. Even with two working parents, sometimes times got tough.
Mimi's Pantry is the outgrowth of her compassion. The pantry is a partnered with not only Harvesters Food Bank but also Happy Bottoms, which provides diapers to mothers with low income.
Although many people think to donate canned or boxed goods to Harvesters, Curtin's aim is to provide healthier options to supplement the shelf stable pantry items. Fresh produce is available, as well as meat and dairy. Volunteers not only stock the shelves but also offer healthy recipes to best utilize the supplies and keep families growing well.
The pantry is set up like a regular grocery store with a few extra perks, such as a library for parents to take books home for their children as well.
"When you're worried about where your next meal will come from, books are the last thing on your mind. So this gives parents a chance to give their kids another great gift, the love of reading," says Curtin.
In the first month, Curtin and his staff, lead by his daughter, Executive Director Kelley Curtin-Catterson, expected 25 families to come through the doors. More than 100 families visited the Pantry in the first two weeks.
"Harvesters warned me that the need was greater than I expected and they were right. We are in the right place at the right time and are learning as we go," says Curtin.
Curtin says that Mimi's Pantry is always accepting donations, whether that's of food items or money that can be used to purchase more food from Harvesters. Either way, he's found a passion in helping others, just like his mother did so long ago.