End is near for food aid program

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Friday, April 20, 2012
— Ronnie Thomas is seldom speechless.

But when the Janesville man learned the SHARE food-buying club is ending, his only reaction was minutes of silence.

“It’s kind of like losing an old friend,” he said.

Thomas has volunteered with SHARE for 23 years.

SHARE helps people in Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Illinois and northeastern Minnesota save money on groceries. It will close its Butler headquarters in June.

“We come to this decision with heavy hearts. SHARE has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and has an amazing network of volunteers. Yet rising prices and changes in market forces make it impossible for us to cover our overhead expenses,” said Paulette Flynn, executive director, in a news release.

“We chose to retire the program now while we still have the resources needed to meet all of our obligations and to allow an orderly completion of our work,” she said.

SHARE food orders for April will be distributed in three Rock County communities, and food orders will be taken for the last time and delivered in May, Thomas said.

Big box stores and other low-cost food retailers have expanded to fill the gap between regular grocery store prices and affordable prices, making reasonably priced food available through normal channels in most communities, Flynn said.

“This change in the marketplace has improved access to food but makes SHARE’s pre-order and pre-pay system obsolete. SHARE simply can’t compete with the buying power and convenience of giant retailers,” she said.

Every month, volunteers such as Thomas did comparison shopping at local grocery stores for products similar to the items on the SHARE order form. That’s how SHARE stayed true to its claim of 30 percent to 50 percent savings compared to typical supermarket prices, according to its newsletter.

For example, in SHARE’s January/February newsletter, one pound of fish fillets sold for $3.10 through SHARE and $4.99 in the local grocery store where the price was compared.

An average package of food was “almost always was in the 40 percent savings range,” Thomas said.

Jeanne Graves and Sylvia Warren, both of Janesville, used and volunteered with SHARE for more than two decades.

Graves estimated she’s saved between $20 and $25 a month on groceries by placing SHARE food orders.

Although Warren bought some food at local grocery stores, her monthly SHARE order helped her family stretch its dollars to the end of the month, she said.

Shut-ins will be hardest hit by the loss of SHARE food deliveries made by the organization’s volunteers, Warren said.

“Now, they’re going to have to have someone go to the store and buy for them,” she said.

Last updated: 8:06 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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