“Rock County has struggled for years with higher levels of unemployment and poverty, and there continues to be changing conditions with downsizing and plant closures. So, it’s our sense that more food is needed in that community,” said Bob Mohelnitzky, president and CEO of the hunger relief agency in Madison that serves 16 southwestern Wisconsin counties.
After being contacted by Second Harvest, ECHO scheduled a second mobile food market this month.
Second Harvest at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, will bring 20,000 pounds of food plus flood clean-up supplies to the Craig Center at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.
The regular monthly food market is the last Wednesday of the month, exception in July, November and December.
Compounding the need for food has been the increase in food and gas prices plus rising unemployment and mortgage foreclosures.
“There are more families in trouble this year than last, and pantries are telling us new people are showing up at mobile food markets who never thought they’d be there asking for help,’’ Mohelnitzky said.
Marge Sell, ECHO resources coordinator, agreed that need is rising.
“Attendance at the mobile food market was 200 for a long time. Now, we’re steadily having 250 people.’’
ECHO volunteers and staff at the mobile food markets are noticing more new faces and more senior citizens—up to 40, compared to 18 in the past, Sell said.
Second Harvest wants to get the food to people who need it, and Mohelnitzky said mobile food markets are the most effective way to increase distribution.
“It’s like a farmers market for low-income people. The only difference is no money changes hands,’’ he said.
The mobile food markets allow Second Harvest to get fresh produce plus frozen food, dairy and bakery goods directly to people in an efficient, dignified manner, Mohelnitzky said.
Typically, Second Harvest provides between 70 and 80 pounds of food per family. The Aug. 13 market will be around 20,000 pounds and will include frozen stuffed chicken tortillas, sliced ham, baked goods, canned vegetables, dairy, snacks and pasta plus flood cleaning supplies, laundry detergent and insect repellent.
“Our work has never been more important,’’ Mohelnitzky said.
“Poverty is up. Families are really having a hard time. So we are intensifying our efforts to get food from the food industry. We are distributing more food in Rock County than any other of our 16 counties. The need deserves it.’’
ECHO is hosting an additional mobile food market at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, in the Craig Center at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1301 Craig Ave. Janesville.
The regular monthly mobile market, scheduled for the last Wednesday of the month, will be from 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Aug. 27. Those who attend must have a proof of residency card issued by ECHO staff.
Call ECHO at (608) 754-5333 with questions and to volunteer.