Some of the largest pantries in Dane County say while demand is up, donations are down.
According to a joint press release from five area food pantries, the charities are seeing record need with rising demand and inflation, and that has operational leaders worried about the immediate future.
At least one food pantry said demand for food assistance has doubled since 2021.
The newest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows prices in September hit another 40-year high. Rent is up by 7.2%, electricity prices are up 15.5%, health insurance is about 30% more expensive, and groceries are up 13%.
“The number of families using our food pantry has increased significantly from 2021 to We’re serving one car per minute during a three-and-half hour span of time,” Chris Kane, Senior Director of Client Services at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison, said in a statement.
With the rising cost of food, fuel, and utilities, and with traditionally high pantry usage in the colder months, there is much concern over food availability, budget shortfalls, inadequate volunteer levels, increases in staff and volunteer workloads and stress. Given these factors, area food pantries face the possibility of not having enough total resources to respond to any future disasters, including a pandemic, financial crisis, and extreme weather events.
“Since January, over 1,300 new households throughout Dane County have registered for our services this year,” Rhonda Adams, Executive Director of The River Food Pantry, said in a statement. “As inflation continues to hit low-income households hard, we are gearing up for a very busy holiday season to meet the community’s growing need for food and household items.”
Many pantries are reporting that individuals and families are traveling longer distances to receive food and coming from not only the greater Madison area but from rural communities all throughout Dane County. St. Vincent de Paul — Madison leaders said in a press release that they’ve noticed a trend of people carpooling from farther distances and picking up food for up to five families at a time.
BPNN reports that many of the families that visit the pantry have employment or live on fixed incomes, and yet it’s not enough to cover the necessities.
“We will serve a record 35,000 individuals in 2022 – up 85% from last year – no small feat for an entirely volunteer organization serving all of Dane County,” Bob Kasieta, Board President of Badger Prairie Needs Network, said in a statement. “We stretch volunteer and funding resources so that families have enough food, and yet it’s not enough. We know our great community will step up yet again.”
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 said in a statement. “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.”
Catie Badsing, Manager of Food Security Programs at the Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry echoed these sentiments in a statement. “October was a record-breaking month for us. As of October 21st, we’ve served more individuals and families with more visits than in all of 2020, which was previously our busiest year ever. 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.”
Community members can make donations to the following food pantries at the following links: