Local food pantries seeing increased traffic this year

Food pantries see increased traffic as 15,000 residents lose food stamps

Food pantries in the 16 counties served by Second Harvest Foodbank of Madison are reporting that more people are using their services than ever before, according to Second Harvest CEO Dan Stein. 

Despite the economy improving and the unemployment rate falling by almost half since Stein took his job seven years ago, Wisconsin residents have not been getting the sort of middle-class jobs that would provide for a family, Stein said.

“If they get paid $10 or $12 an hour and try to feed a family they are still going to need help,” Stein said. “They can’t make it on that number alone.”

Second Harvest estimates a 5 million meal shortfall this year for its service area, and relies on donations to fill the gap, serving as a distribution center for food pantries and nonprofits.

Fueled by holiday donations, this year Second Harvest is on pace to have its biggest year ever, beating last year’s total by 12 percent. 

“It is very gratifying to know every day you’re changing the life of someone who is seeking assistance and sometimes giving up hope,” Stein said. “Throughout the organization people think it’s a great job, knowing they’re making a difference.”