‘It’s beyond what we expected:’ Local food pantries seeing heightened demand

MADISON, Wis — Food pantries across the state are experiencing heightened demand, with some returning to levels similar to those at the height of the pandemic, Second Harvest Foodbank CEO Michelle Orge said.

Second Harvest Foodbank distributes food to hundreds of pantries across 16 counties in southwestern Wisconsin. Orge said demand has doubled and even tripled at many of those pantries in the area.

“We planned this year to be a pretty big year,” Orge said. “And even planning for that big year, we’re already at 30% above our planned distribution for the first six months. It’s beyond what we expected.”

The reasons behind this increase in demand can be hard to pinpoint, but Orge said inflation has made food prices difficult for families to afford. In addition, the loss of pandemic-related support like the Child Tax Credit has made affording food even more challenging.

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Orge said Second Harvest takes both physical and monetary donations, but financial contributions are the best way to help. These donations allow them to purchase food items such as eggs, dairy and produce.

“When folks support us with financial donations, we can go and get those, transport them and get them out to families,” Orge said. “We can take $10 and turn that into 25 meals.”

Many don’t realize how common food insecurity is, according to Orge. When people donate, they are often helping people in the community without realizing it.

“It’s a lot of folks’ neighbors, it’s the kids going to school with your kids. It’s something that folks don’t see,” Orge said. “When you give, you’re giving to your community and not to strangers.”

Orge said people can also help by signing up to volunteer at the foodbank or at other local food pantries.

“Food insecurity doesn’t know a season, and we really do need that help consistently throughout the year,” Orge said.