Food banks, pantries in need of volunteers, food & funding to keep up with growing demand

The Department of Health Services reports a 129% increase in people applying for food share benefits

MADISON, Wis. — Food pantries and food banks around Madison are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for food assistance as the economy continues to wreak havoc on the population.

“The increase has been between 30% and 50% depending on the day,” said Ernie Stetenfeld, CEO and Executive Director of Dane County’s St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.

Stetenfeld said the number of people who drive up for curbside food assistance now is comparable to the record breaking numbers they typically see around Thanksgiving, serving upwards of 120 families per day.

“We anticipate we will see significant need for some time to come,” Stetenfeld said.

Like many food pantries in the area, Stetenfeld relies on the help of Second Harvest Food Bank.

President and CEO of Second Harvest, Michelle Orge, said her volunteers and staff are doing what they can to make it work right now in being able to provide food for anyone who needs it. But the pressure to provide is becoming more and more challenging.

“Because there is less food in surplus, we are getting fewer donations,” Orge said. “So we have supplemented that by purchasing food and that food is getting more expensive because of the competition for it. We are competing against retail.”

Orge said Second Harvest has helped provide more than 100,000 boxes of food to food pantries around the area and the number of boxes shipped out per week has nearly doubled since March.

“It’s hard on people to come to work every day wondering if we are going to have enough food to do it, wondering if we are going to have enough funds to do it, whether we are going to have enough staff and volunteers that day to do it,” Orge said.

Sometimes, Second Harvest’s requests for food from its suppliers are put on hold for weeks, but the number of people needing help isn’t slowing down. While Orge and her volunteers and staff members are trying to help the community, Orge said they could use help from the community right now, too.

“Funding for us means more food for our pantries and our partners,” Orge said. “We are going to need help long term. So donating now, not forgetting about us when this is over because this isn’t going to be over for the people we serve for a long time.”

If you would like to donate or volunteer for Second Harvest Food Bank, click here.

To donate or volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul, click here.

You can also donate or volunteer at any other local food bank or pantry you choose.