Families find a lifeline at Mimi’s Pantry. Set up like a neighborhood grocery store, the innovative food pantry, which includes a library and a play area for kids, offers what founder Dennis Curtin calls a dignified experience to those who are facing food insecurity. Instead of standing in breadlines for boxes or canned goods—a difficult experience for people already facing a low point in their lives—visitors to Mimi’s can choose items they actually enjoy in an environment that reinforces a sense of providing for oneself.
“When people are shopping, they don’t feel like they’re getting a handout,” says Curtin. Mimi’s offers a wide variety of goods, including fresh produce, meat, dairy, bread and even specialty products for people with food allergies. A brand-new green- house and a fruit orchard will allow Mimi’s to grow its own food and elevate the visitor experience. As a grocery store stocker in college, Curtin saw a high level of excess- food waste. “Food inventory isn’t the problem—it’s distribution,” he says, and so he partners with major grocery chains to take their overflow. Mimi’s Pantry is an homage to Curtin’s mother, Lillian. She owned a deli when Curtin was growing up and would waive the bill for customers who couldn’t afford to pay. Curtin remembers her philosophy about giving back: “Don’t talk about it. Just do it.”