Stock the Shelves: Hunger in Door, Kewaunee counties affects a variety of people. Here’s how you can help
Hunger doesn't have just one face in Door and Kewaunee counties — it has many. If you look around, you likely will see one of them.
There are people with disabilities, the elderly, people trying to get by on fixed incomes, the homeless.
But there also are people with steady jobs, and young families that aren't earning enough from work to make ends meet.
"We see all kinds of people," said Sandi Soik, director of the Lakeshore CAP (Community Action Program) Food Pantry in Sturgeon Bay. "We have our elderly families, singles, the disabled. But there's also young families, maybe with two or three kids, of course day care is an issue up here, and they're struggling. They're working, but they can't make it."
"I think there's a lot of working poor," said Dan Balch, treasurer for Lakeshore Community Pantry in Kewaunee. "They're working, but not making enough to earn a living."
The pantries have been even more vital this year to those making use of them because of supply-chain problems and inflation — 8.3% in the 12 months from August 2021 to August 2022 — that's driven up prices on just about everything for everyone across the nation since this spring. Not just food prices, but also prices for fuel for vehicles and heat, clothes and other goods needed to live.
"This place really helps," said Mary Cisler of Kewaunee, a client at Lakeshore Community Pantry, while picking up a basket of food items Sept. 21. "Gas prices have been going up, food costs are up. I couldn't make it without (the pantry)."
"Inflation right now is our biggest issue," said Patti Habeck, president and CEO of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. "Rising costs have pushed people who really were on the bubble into food insecurity."
Adding to the increased use of food pantries in recent months is that the three rounds of stimulus checks sent to people by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic have come to an end. Ken Marquardt, director of Kewaunee County Food Pantry in Algoma, said the number of clients they served each month actually dropped last year because some of them had the extra COVID funds to help them get by, but the numbers are again rising.
"Since inflation (became an issue this past spring), we're probably up 35%. It's steadily going up," Marquardt said. "We've gotten a lot of comments about that — 'We're so glad you guys are here, because we can't make it anymore.'"
"(The pantry) helps a lot," said Jerry Paul, a retiree who with his wife is a volunteer as well as a client at Kewaunee County Food Pantry. "It's been pretty tough. You've got to be careful which store you go to (for prices). You just get the things you need."
Soik said she estimates the number of clients at the Lakeshore CAP pantry has risen about 20% in the last 2½ months, when "… a lot of the COVID assistance went away," and Balch said the number of people getting food from that pantry has risen about 40% since mid-June, from 30 or so a week to about 50 now.
"You hear some people saying it's either food or rent," Balch said. "There's quite a squeeze on their budgets (because of inflation)."
And while some may think hunger and access to nutritious food are more of a problem in urban areas, that it's not that big a deal in rural areas and smaller communities like those in Door and Kewaunee counties, statistics from Feeding America indicate otherwise.
According to the organization, 2,220 people are considered food insecure in Door County, 670 of them children. That's 8% of the general population and 15% of its children. In Kewaunee County, 1,280 people are food insecure, 410 of them children, or 10% and 6% of the population. That compares with next-door Brown County and its urban center of Green Bay, which has a food insecurity rate of 8% overall and 13% for children.
Habeck noted that while the sheer numbers are higher in urban areas, those dealing with food insecurity in rural areas may not have easy access to food pantries, and the pantries themselves likely don't have the resources or larger donors that bigger communities would. Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin partners with three Door County pantries and two in Kewaunee County to provide them with a portion of their foods, and this month USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin is launching its annual Stock the Shelves community outreach campaign in conjunction with the organization.
"Very much of our footprint is on rural communities," Habeck said. "Rural areas have seen a dramatic impact with inflation and food insecurity in recent years."
Balch and Soik separately noted other challenges of solving the hunger problem in rural areas. People may have longer drives to get to a grocery store or farmers market, and the rise in gas prices over the past year has added to the inflationary crimp in their budgets. Plus, they may have fewer choices in where to shop for food, therefore fewer choices in finding the best prices.
"The reality is, hunger is hunger," Habeck said. "What is different is how we service those communities. You can't think of it as this is urban hunger, this is rural hunger."
Want to help? Stock the Shelves donation window is open during October
Last year, thanks to the generosity of readers, more than $163,000 was raised through the Stock the Shelves campaign, providing more than 652,000 meals to those in need in communities served by USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
Stock the Shelves aims to help those in need in the communities served by the following Wisconsin newspapers: Appleton Post-Crescent, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Oshkosh Northwestern, Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, Sheboygan Press, Fond du Lac Reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wausau Daily Herald, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Marshfield News Herald, Stevens Point Journal, Door County Advocate, Oconto County Reporter and Kewaunee County Star-News. Donations will help support the community in which the donor resides.
Checks should be made payable to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, ATTN: Stock the Shelves, and mailed 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 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/.
Your donation to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin will go to help these food pantries in Door and Kewaunee counties:
- Door County Food Pantry, Lakeshore CAP, Inc., 131 S. Third Ave., Sturgeon Bay. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Door County residency and proof of economic eligibility required; food may be picked up once a month, more in emergency situations. 920-743-0192 or lakeshorecap.org/door-county-food-pantry.
- Holy Name of Mary Food Pantry, Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church, 7491 County H, Sturgeon Bay. Open 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. first and third Saturdays of the month; those getting food should call ahead at 920-493-5055 or 920-493-6867 to arrange a pickup time. 920-856-6440 or holynameofmary.church/food-pantry.
- Stewards of Grace Ministries, 10821 Stage Road, Brussels. Open 10 a.m. to noon Thursdays. 920-333-0321 or stewardsofgrace.org.
- 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 10:30 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: Hunger in Door, Kewaunee counties affects a variety of people. Here's how you can help