Food Pantry struggles to feed community
October 11, 2012
The River Falls Community Food Pantry struggles to raise enough donations to meet the rising need of area families.
Wisconsin Food Insecurity rates jumped from 9 percent to 11.8 percent in 2008. Pepin and St. Croix counties had 12.7 percent of the population report food-hardship in the 2009-2010 year according to records by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Food-hardship refers to a household not having the money to buy the food they need.
Area data supports national reports of American Food Insecurity. According to the USDA, 14.9 percent of households (17.9 million households) were food insecure in 2011. Since 2006 74 percent of pantries, 65 percent of kitchens, and 54 percent of shelters reported that there had been an increase in clients.
River Falls Community Food Pantry (RFCFP) Board Member Terry Swinburne said, “In 2005, on a monthly basis, we would service about 150 visits. Now in 2012 we’re looking at nearing 450 visits per month.” This is a 300 percent increase in demand.
Swinburne said, “At this time donations have become somewhat flat due to the economy. The demand has grown much more than donations have grown.”
The RFCFP gathers approximately half of its inventory through donations and half from purchases made with donated money.
According to RFCFP records, 309,257 pounds of food was donated in 2011.
More food donations are needed. Pantry Coordinator Rick Pechacek said that the community does not realize how the pantry functions and fears this prevents people from donating.
Pechacek said two misconceptions he encounters is that volunteers are paid and donators fear that families “rip off” the system. In truth, the 60 volunteers do not receive stipend, and drivers, who pick up and deliver food, do not receive gas mileage.
Only families within the River Falls School District can receive emergency food assistance at the RFCFP.
The RFCFP is presently in need of vegetables, fresh and canned and breakfast cereal. Money donations are the greatest asset to the RFCFP as $1 donated equates to nearly $4 or $5 worth of food from 2nd Harvest Heartland, a place the pantry can purchase food at a reduced cost.
Eligible families are allowed one or two visits per month, dependent on need. A one visit family can receive up to four bags of groceries or home goods and four meat options. A family receiving two visits receives up to two bags and two meats per visit.
Families seeking information on how to gain assistance can visit the RFCFP website at rfcfp.com or call the office at 715-425-6880.