Food pantry use is on the rise, while donations are down

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010
— Without groceries from local food pantries, Rodney Patnoe wouldn’t have enough money to pay bills at the end of the month.

“It really helps take some of the pressure off me,” the 48-year-old Janesville man said.

Patnoe, a single father with one child at home and five adult children, is a part-time musician.

“I make OK money playing music but not enough to supplement everything that goes along with (the costs of) raising a 5-year-old,” he said.

Patnoe stops at the Salvation Army for groceries once a month and picks up bread in between. The food, he said, saves him at least $100 a month.

“It goes back into the household on regular bills we normally wouldn’t have money for,’’ he said.

Patnoe said he and his son have never gone hungry, but there have been many times at the end of the month when they’re living off macaroni and cheese and saving what milk they have left for breakfast.

“We’re just hanging on until the next month’s (food order) or paycheck,” he said.

During his visits to the food pantries, Patnoe said he’s seen people who in other times wouldn’t need help from a food pantry.

“But here they are, and they need the service,’’ he said.

‘Less food to more people’

One in six Americans is going hungry, and over the past 10 years the number of families accessing food pantries nationwide has increased 50 percent, according to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, Madison.

Second Harvest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending hunger through community partnerships such as ECHO and the Salvation Army, has experienced an 83 percent increase in the number of people it has served annually since 2006, Dan Stein, president and CEO, said in a press release.

“Of the nearly 141,000 people served by the Foodbank and its more than 400 partner hunger-relief programs in 16 Wisconsin counties, 43 percent are children younger than 18,” he said.

During the first eight months of this year, ECHO served 17,100 people, which is “about even” with the same period in 2009, said Karen Lisser, ECHO executive director.

The big difference this year is more people are being turned away, she said.

ECHO gives away a one-week supply of groceries to 40 families each morning, but this year ECHO has had more days where it met it maximum of 40 orders with people still waiting in line.

Some of those people come back the next day and are able to get groceries, Lisser said, and some go to other food pantries.

Although demand is up, donations are down.

ECHO distributed 27 percent less food through its food pantry, Lisser said. Most of that decline is because ECHO is getting less food from Second Harvest.

Pounds of food given out at ECHO’s monthly mobile market—which is entirely supplied by Second Harvest—are down 32 percent, but the number of people served is up 44 percent, she said.

“So, we’re giving less food to more people,’’ Lisser said.

She predicted the increased demand for food will continue “because it’s a basic essential, and the job situation has not increased here.’’

‘We are concerned’

The Salvation Army has expanded pantry hours twice in the past two years.

The number of grocery orders filled, people served and new people seeking help from October 2009 through August this year has surpassed numbers for the same months the previous year, Capt. Kirk Schuetz said.

In 10 months, the Salvation Army filled 4,623 grocery orders, served 12,000 people and helped 4,584 new clients. Numbers were up in every category, Schuetz said.

“I’d say we’ve seen an increase of 20 to 25 percent in demand for food, which this year is consistently up, and a lot of those are new cases,” he said.

For example, from July to August 138 new people sought help from the Salvation Army, “which is quite a lot for us,” said Tami Prochazka, social services coordinator.

The number of those seeking assistance, she said, will only continue to grow because “more and more people can’t get a job. And when they come in, it’s just not food, there are other services they need, too.’’

Although Janesville is a generous community and the Salvation Army has had enough money and donations to meet the demand so far, Schuetz said times are tough.

“We are concerned,’’ he said, “and wonder if this season is going to be more difficult.’’

Last updated: 2:58 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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