Stock the Shelves: One sandwich at a time, Kewaunee County generosity helps through pandemic — but the need remains
KEWAUNEE – It's the generosity that's perhaps most striking.
When Kewaunee County Star-News wrote about county food pantries last fall for USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin's Stock the Shelves community outreach campaign in conjunction with Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, we were several months into the COVID-19 pandemic that saw workers lose jobs, temporarily or permanently.
Demand for pantry goods — not just food but also hygiene products and cleaning supplies, for example — skyrocketed as families that didn't use those services before found themselves in need. And that was alongside the pantries' previous clients that still needed the service.
Dan Balch, treasurer for Lakeshore Community Pantry in Kewaunee, said their pantry saw its client base jump from 160 families a month, representing 535 individuals, in the months before the pandemic (January, February and March 2020) to 269 families in April 2020, just after the pandemic struck the state. From June through September last year, the pantry served an average of 202 families a month, or about 564 individuals.
On top of the huge increase in demand, the pandemic closed the thrift shop operated by the pantry and caused cancellation of the annual canned and nonperishable food drives.
So, how could pantries continue serving their clients through all that? To a great extent, it happened because of the generosity of the Kewaunee County community.
Speaking with the Star-News last October, Balch noted a significant increase in donations from local businesses, organizations and individuals who pulled together to help those in need in a unprecedently difficult time.
Some already were donating to the cause but upped their ante, like the Carlton Hunting and Fishing Club, which added $4,000 to the proceeds it annually donates from its January gun raffle, or Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy, North Water Bakery and Deli in Algoma and Krohn's Dairy Store in Luxemburg, all of which upped their donations of beef, bread and cheese, respectively, after the pandemic started.
And there were the local independent farmers who came around to donate fresh produce and eggs. And cash donations increased to help the pantry continue its work, Balch said.
That generous spirit appears to continue this year even as people get back to work and back, slightly, toward a pre-pandemic normal. Balch recently said the client list at Lakeshore Community began returning to pre-COVID-19 levels during this summer but added local donations remain strong, not only helping with the amount of available goods but also the quality of them that the pantry is able to get.
"Our donations of cash and food items have continued at a strong pace, allowing us financial relief and the ability to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables as well as good quality meat to our recipients," Balch said. "We have received over 200 donations of cash and groceries from individuals, businesses and service organizations in the Kewaunee area so far this year."
Balch also said the pantry relies on a core of about 10 volunteers who get the food ready for distribution each week. Plus, there's a larger group of volunteers who man the re-opened thrift store six days a week, which expanded because of increased donations of clothing and household goods from the community.
And at Kewaunee County Food Pantry in Algoma, director Ken Marquardt said after what he called a substantial increase in cash donations from people in the community last year, donations have been "steady and adequate to meet our needs" this year.
Marquardt also noted that other food pantries with who he's talked across Northeast Wisconsin had fewer families coming in for food help on a regular basis this summer because of increased Foodshare dollars from the government.
But those funds were lowered recently, Marquardt said, so they've already had a small increase in clients recently and expect that uptick to continue in coming weeks and months.
Want to help? Stock the Shelves donation window is open throughout October
Stock the Shelves is an annual campaign by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin in partnership with Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin that encourages readers to donate money to help fight hunger in their local communities.
Since 2010, Stock the Shelves has raised more than $5 million for food pantries across Wisconsin thanks to the donations of readers and support of community partners, including credit unions.
"We are excited to continue our partnership with the Stock the Shelves program in 2021," said Andy Fisher, chief business executive for USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. "Over the years this program has helped countless numbers of individuals and families throughout eastern Wisconsin. Last year over $150,000 was raised through this program. COVID-19 has impacted and continues to impact many of our families, friends and neighbors throughout our communities and there has not been a more important time to band together to help these people in need.”
The money raised provided about half a million meals to those in need in our communities.
"We are committed to supporting the communities throughout our USA TODAY-Wisconsin Network and our team is excited to partner with this amazing program again this year," Fisher said.
Stock the Shelves aims to help those in need in the communities served by the following Northeastern Wisconsin newspapers: Kewaunee County Star-News, Door County Advocate, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Oconto County Reporter, Appleton Post-Crescent, Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, Oshkosh Northwestern, Fond du Lac Reporter, Sheboygan Press, Wausau Daily Herald, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Marshfield News Record, Stevens Point Journal, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Donations will help support the community in which the donor resides.
Checks should be made payable to Feeding American Eastern Wisconsin, ATTN: Stock the Shelves, and mail to 2911 W. Evergreen Drive, Appleton WI 54913. Enclose alongside your contribution the donor’s address with city, state and ZIP code for internal processing, a notation of whether or not the donation should remain anonymous, whether the donation is in the memory of someone special, and the donor’s name as it should appear in the thank-you advertisement to be published in the Thanksgiving edition of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin’s daily newspapers.
To donate online, visit feedingamericawi.org/stocktheshelvesdonate.
Feeding America partners with these local pantries
Food pantries in Kewaunee County which will benefit from Stock the Shelves donations include:
- Lakeshore Community Pantry, in the lower level of Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 519 Kilbourn St., Kewaunee. Open 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays. Goods are available to anyone. 920-388-9050 or visit the "Kewaunee Lakeshore Community Pantry" Facebook page.
- Kewaunee County Food Pantry, 1528 Sunset Ave., Algoma. Open 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Registration and proof of eligibility required; clients can visit once a month. 920-487-3663 or kcfpantry.org.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Stock the Shelves: One sandwich at a time, Kewaunee County generosity helps through pandemic — but the need remains