Keeping people fed
By Kana Coonce
ALGOMA – Amidst soaring living costs, volunteers at the Kewaunee County Food Pantry (KCFP) strive to keep people within the county fed.
“It’s called a client choice pantry,” said KCFP’s director of 12 years, Ken Marquardt, “so a volunteer will take [clients] through a line with shelves that have a variety of different kinds of things. We try to keep vegetables together, tomato products… Depending on family size they can choose what they need or want. We try to have a variety on the shelves so they can choose; if they don’t like corn, they can have peas instead.”
As a nonprofit, KCFP sustains itself almost entirely on the goodwill of the community.
This means that the pantry’s selection at any given time depends on what people have donated.
“Right now,” Marquardt said, “we’re overloaded with fresh vegetables. Given another month and a half, we’ll probably be short on vegetables.”
While he said that at present the pantry could use more canned soups, overall they could do with more donations of “personal care products: shampoos, conditioner, soaps, cleaners, things like that, that people use every day.”
These kinds of items are often forgotten or overlooked by donors but are just as key to maintaining a person’s adequate health and wellbeing.
In addition, KCFP accepts donations of household items such as kitchenware and decorations, which they stock in their thrift store, open from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
KCFP also houses one of three community gardens run by the Kewaunee County Garden Club. Gardeners can rent a four by eight foot bed or a 20 foot bed through the club, which they can then use to grow their own produce.
“They planted a whole lot of beans for us,” said Marquardt of the garden club. “They’re growing beans constantly.”
As a result of this partnership of sorts, the food pantry regularly offers produce grown by the club.
While Marquardt said that KCFP has reached a point where they “definitely” receive enough food donations, he said that not everyone who might need those items in the community seeks it out.
“There are a lot of people that would qualify [to receive assistance], but I think they’re embarrassed to come to a food pantry. I know I’ve had those in the past. They got so desperate they finally had to come, so I don’t know,” he said.
Following COVID-19, food insufficiency — defined by the USDA as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways” — has fluctuated across Wisconsin households.
In the spring of 2022, despite having fallen to 5% the previous fall, food insufficiency in Wisconsin households with children had risen to 13%, according to the Wisconsin Food Security Project, a UW-Madison Extension.
Contributing factors include inflation and the expiration of temporary assistance implemented during the pandemic, leaving many struggling families floundering.
Inflation reached 9.1% in June of 2022; at the time of writing, the rate has dropped to 3.18%, but Americans’ average pay has overwhelmingly not kept up with their surging living costs.
KCFP’s services are open to low-income families throughout Kewaunee.
The registration form, which also lists eligibility requirements, is available on their website in both English and Spanish, but the form can be obtained at KCFP in person if applicants are unable to print it ahead of time.
“We’re happy to help anyone in the county,” said Marquardt. “That’s what we do. The more people that come in the better it is. We like to serve ‘em.”
Kewaunee County Food Pantry is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. for the food pantry and 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. for the thrift shop.
Donations of food, personal care products and household items can be made in person during business hours, but special arrangements can be made by reaching out via phone at (920) 487-3663 or email at [email protected].
The food pantry is located at 1528 Sunset Ave, Algoma.
For more information, visit www.kcfpantry.org.