Providing help for those in need

Stephanie Chang hopes to make a difference for low-income families and the elderly in Costa Mesa.

Chang founded Free Pantry, a farmer's market at Lighthouse Church & Outreach Ministries, in July with hopes to provide free, healthy food alternatives for those in need.

"I learned from feeding the homeless for seven years," Chang said. "I thought if people do this, if people want to eat healthy, there is somewhere they can go for free and get fruits and vegetables."

Unlike other pantries that provide pre-packed bags, those in need can bring their own bags and fill them up with as much food as they want for free at Free Pantry.

Selections include a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as other goods such as dry food, frozen meals, ground beef, canned goods and laundry detergent.

Free Pantry held its second farmer's market Saturday. Chang's group of volunteers, as well as Lighthouse church members, provided the food.

"The passion was there and I knew I could do it if I had volunteers to help and fund the fruits and vegetables," Chang said.

The Orange County Rescue Mission provided 300 cans of chili and coffee for those waiting in line.

Yasith Weerasuriya, President of Stanbridge College, donated 40 backpacks to children in need at Saturday's event as part of the college's REACH program for service learning and engagement.

"Stephanie is an angel," Weerasuriya said. "Stanbridge College is really privileged to be part of the mission."

Free Pantry is held on the fourth Saturday of every month at Lighthouse Church & Outreach Ministries, 1885 Anaheim St., Costa Mesa, but Chang hopes to expand the event to twice a month.

"It is a huge operation and I wanted to do it because I'm already doing the feeding," Chang said. "Last month, I noticed people that came were mostly families. Just to see how appreciative and grateful they were was great."

Chang said those interested in volunteering or donating can call her at (714) 403-1612 or email her at For more information, visit

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