‘I was the person donating. Now I’m in line’: Local food pantries ask for help as they serve a record number of families

20 million families received a free meal in the past week

MADISON, Wis.– Nearly 12% of American families, a record 26 million people, reported not having enough to eat over the past week. Thousands live in south-central Wisconsin.

They’re our neighbors. Our friends. Or maybe, ourselves.

“For many people, 2020 was the first time they ever used a food pantry,” said Francesca Frisque, Food Pantry Coordinator for the Goodman Community Center. “And so that was a hard barrier for them to overcome: to have to use a service they never thought they would need.”

According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 million families received a free meal in the past 7 days.

“They have said, ‘I was the person donating. Now I’m here in line,” said Frisque.

Nearly half of the families currently receiving free meals rely on food provided by schools. But with many kids still learning from home this semester, more are turning to local food pantries, like the Second Harvest Food Bank, the River Food Pantry, and the Goodman Community Center.

“School districts do meal pickup programs, but those don’t give families everything they need,” said Frisque. “Families are home more and need more food, so they are depending on pantries to fill in the blanks they can’t get with food stamps or through the school district.”

Frisque said need is up by nearly 50% this winter.

That’s where you come in.

If you can afford to help local food banks, donating money is a great way to make a difference. Feeding America has a search tool that can help you find food banks in your area.

In addition to monetary donations, many food banks are looking for volunteers. Feeding America has a form you can fill out to volunteer.

You can also check in directly with local organizations, like the Madison-based River Food Pantry, Second Harvest, or the Goodman Community Center.

If you are trying to find food for your family, click here to locate your nearest food pantry.

This story first aired as part of News 3 Now This Morning’s ‘Make a Difference Monday’ series. If you know of a person, group, or business going above and beyond to serve our community during the ongoing pandemic, let us know. Send an email to tips@channel3000.com and we might feature them in an upcoming segment.