Dane County food pantries facing more demand than ever before

Dane County food pantries facing more demand than ever before

Demand at Dane County food pantries has gone up this year, but donations have not, according to a joint press release from Madison area food pantries. 

The number of monthly visits to the food pantry at Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) and the amount of food distributed has increased by 116% since this time last year, said Ellen Carlson, executive director of MOM.

“We’ve been able to meet this rising demand to this point because of the support and generosity of people in our community,” Carlson said. “With the increase in the number of people accessing our services, we need to come together now more than ever to build food security for our neighbors.”

Cate Badsing, the manager for Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry, said they have already doubled the number of people they served in 2021 this year.

Katherine Higgins, the Communications Manager for the Society of St Vincent DePaul in Madison, said demand has been rising since the pandemic.

“Right now, we're seeing an unprecedented need for food in our pantry. And we are not the only pantry to experience this,” Higgins said.

Higgins said that in November Saint Vincent De Paul served 170 houses every day they were open, doubling their 2021 numbers this fall.

Badsing said there are two factors for why need is increasing this year in particular.

Since 2020, people have been relying on Covid-19 relief packages to ensure they have food to eat. Most of those packages ended this year, so people are looking to other sources for food.

Second, in addition to no longer receiving relief funds, many families are feeling the impact of inflation and a higher cost of living.

“Now that those programs have wound down, many of those families fell back into poverty, right when the cost of living started skyrocketing. It's a cruel set of circumstances for those folks living paycheck to paycheck,” Badsing said.

Volunteers work at Middleton Outreach Ministry food pantry the week before Thanksgiving
Volunteers work at Middleton Outreach Ministry food pantry the week before Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy of Middleton Outreach Ministry.

Even with an increased need, Badsing said they are receiving fewer donations.

Badsing said this is likely because COVID-19 had been preventing them from having regular food drives.

“We've taken the highest number of reservations for Thanksgiving Baskets ever. We're lucky to have a very generous community, but we're concerned that with the cold months coming up we haven't hit the ceiling yet,” Badsing said in the press release.

Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry is purchasing more food than normal to meet the demand. Badsing said the Dane County board approved funds for food pantries which should help them purchase some of the food they need over the next two years.

“We're also trying to make new connections with various businesses and community partners to do food drives,” Badsing said.

Higgins said they also rely on community support for funding St.Vincent de Paul. They received over $24,000 from Giving Tuesday, and they have been increasing their number of volunteers.

St. Vincent de Paul has still not opened its doors to the public since the pandemic. They provide pick up and drive thru service, according to Higgins. They also have a partnership with DoorDash so people can get their food delivered to them.

The Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry has taken a different approach. Anyone can stop in and it is open six days a week.

Badsing said it is set up in a grocery shopping style so people can pick out what they want. She  encourages anyone who is struggling with food insecurity to call 211 to connect with their local food pantry.

“The food pantry has really grown to be a stable presence in the community,” Badsing said.

The food pantry is important because it is a place where anyone can get food no matter their circumstances, and still experience the “dignity of choice, she said.”

She also asks anyone to donate or volunteer if they can.

“We really are 99% volunteer powered and we need folks who are interested in helping us with that work,” Badsing said.

Higgins said that donations to food pantries go a long way. A $25 donation can provide one family with food for a week.

Cate Badsing, the manager for Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry, said they have already doubled the number of people they served in 2021 this year. 

Katherine Higgins, the Communications Manager for the Society of St Vincent DePaul in Madison, said demand has been rising since the pandemic. 

“Right now, we're seeing an unprecedented need for food in our pantry. And we are not the only pantry to experience this,” Higgins said. 

Higgins said that in November Saint Vincent De Paul served 170 houses every day they were open, doubling their 2021 numbers this fall.  

Badsing said there are two factors for why need is increasing this year in particular. 

The number of monthly visits to the food pantry at Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) and the amount of food distributed has increased by 116% since this time last year, Ellen Carlson, Executive Director of MOM, says. 

“We’ve been able to meet this rising demand to this point because of the support and generosity of people in our community,” Carlson says. “With the increase in the number of people accessing our services, we need to come together now more than ever to build food security for our neighbors.”

Since 2020, people have been relying on Covid-19 relief packages to ensure they have food to eat. Most of those packages ended this year, so people are looking to other sources for food. 

Second, in addition to no longer receiving relief funds, many families are feeling the impact of inflation and a higher cost of living. 

“Now that those programs have wound down, many of those families fell back into poverty, right when the cost of living started skyrocketing. It's a cruel set of circumstances for those folks living paycheck to paycheck,” Badsing said. 

Even with an increased need, Badsing said they are receiving fewer donations. 

Badsing said this is likely because COVID-19 had been preventing them from having regular food drives. 

“We've taken the highest number of reservations for Thanksgiving Baskets ever. We're lucky to have a very generous community, but we're concerned that with the cold months coming up we haven't hit the ceiling yet,” Badsing said in the press release. 

Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry is purchasing more food than normal to meet the demand. Badsing said the Dane County board approved funds for food pantries which should help them purchase some of the food they need over the next two years. 

“We're also trying to make new connections with various businesses and community partners to do food drives,” Badsing said. 

Higgins said they also rely on community support for funding St.Vincent de Paul. They received over $24,000 from Giving Tuesday, and they have been increasing their number of volunteers. 

St. Vincent de Paul has still not opened its doors to the public since the pandemic. They provide pick up and drive thru service, according to Higgins. They also have a partnership with DoorDash so people can get their food delivered to them. 

The Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry has taken a different approach. Anyone can stop in and it is open six days a week.

Badsing said it is set up in a grocery shopping style so people can pick out what they want. She  encourages anyone who is struggling with food insecurity to call 211 to connect with their local food pantry. 

“The food pantry has really grown to be a stable presence in the community,” Badsing said. 

The food pantry is important because it is a place where anyone can get food no matter their circumstances, and still experience the “dignity of choice, she said.” 

She also asks anyone to donate or volunteer if they can. 

“We really are 99% volunteer powered and we need folks who are interested in helping us with that work,” Badsing said. 

Higgins said that donations to food pantries go a long way. A $25 donation can provide one family with food for a week. 

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