'Food, Funds and Friends': WI Food Pantries Seek Holiday Support
Wisconsin's food charities are preparing for a possible spike in demand heading into the holiday season.
From the end of federal pandemic aid measures to ongoing supply chain disruptions, Stephanie Dorfman, executive director of Feeding Wisconsin, said organizations like hers are balancing several factors this year.
Feeding Wisconsin coordinates six regional food banks across the state, and distributed 86 million pounds of food during the 2021 fiscal year, up 75% from 2019.
"Our food banks across the state are always in need of food, funds and friends," said Dorfman.
A March 2021 report from Feeding America, Feeding Wisconsin's parent organization, predicted more than 10% of Wisconsinites, or about 606,000 people, would experience food insecurity this year. That's slightly better than the national average of nearly 13%.
As local food pantries work to address food insecurity, Nancy Renkes - executive director of the Feed my People Food Bank in Eau Claire - said these organizations typically prefer cash donations, which allow them more flexibility when stocking their shelves.
"So, it absolutely is much more beneficial to hungry people if we can have people make a financial donation versus a food donation," said Renkes, "unless it's food that would otherwise end up in the landfill."
According to its website, Feed my People distributes more than 8.3 million pounds of food annually to 14 counties in western Wisconsin.
While it isn't a major concern yet, Renkes added, supply chain disruptions have made getting food to pantries more difficult in recent weeks.
"We're feeling the impact in really just a couple of different ways," said Renkes, "and we're cautiously optimistic that it won't become a huge issue. But definitely, it's a concern."
She noted food-aid charities need continued support even past the holidays, as they predict demand will likely remain high well into the new year.