On the first weekend in December, Food Concepts Inc. hosted WayForward’s annual Holiday Art Market and fundraiser.
Located at Food Concepts’ facility in Middleton, the market welcomed nearly 50 artists and makers selling goods like food products, ceramics, textiles and photography, among others. Twenty percent of all proceeds go directly to WayForward Resources. These donations help fund the organization’s efforts to create food and housing security.
Jennifer Angelo, a felting artist and Holiday Art Market vendor, has participated in the event for the past eight years. Angelo keeps coming back for several reasons, one of which is to raise money for those in need.
“We want to help WayForward…we want to help those kinds of establishments that help the community. It’s a community thing,” Angelo said.
In addition to vendors, the market hosted musicians from Middleton High School’s orchestra and even Santa to further welcome the season of giving, which is especially important this year.
The organization needs the community’s help even more now than it has in recent years.
“The biggest thing right now for us is just trying to make sure that people understand how much the need has grown in the community,” said Jenny Price, communication manager for WayForward. The increase in need is seen not only in its food pantry, but around Dane County.
“The demand has really increased since pandemic era programs have ended, like tax credit, and increased food and rental assistance,” Price said.
This call for help in communities is a common narrative across the United States. Financial instability and food insecurity was further impacted by the end of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program this past March, which gave a temporary increase in benefits
The U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey revealed that there has been a 17.75% increase from Oct. 2020 to Oct. 2023 in people who reported they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat. In Wisconsin alone there are 427,380 people who are facing hunger, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study. Over a quarter of them are children.
The Holiday Art Market provides people an easy way to get their gift shopping done, while also donating to a good cause. However, people do not need to wait for the holidays to come around to give to an organization like WayForward.
Price added, “I think the one thing that we always want to say too, though, is that hunger or instability exists year round. But we’re always glad to have this time of year to remind people of what’s happening in the community.”