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Chippewa Valley food pantries see increased demand in late summer

Local food banks and pantries are seeing a higher need for food in recent months.
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 2:26 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, local food banks and pantries say they are seeing a dramatic increase in need for food.

Valley Vineyard Church in Chippewa Falls hosts a drive-thru pantry every Tuesday and Thursday. Pastors Michael and Trisha Houle say they are seeing close to a 50% increase in families stopping by.

“We saw a spike in demand in March and April. Then it kind of leveled off for a few months but recently we have seen the amount of demand skyrocket probably since the end of June,” Michael says.

The Houles say they are also seeing an average of four to five new families each week, some who have never been to pantries before.

“Their story is they got laid off due to COVID or lost a job or things have changed,” Michael says. “One family had to welcome another family in because that family has become homeless.”

Valley Vineyard partners with Feed My People Food Bank, which the Houles say has been helpful in getting them the supplies they need to meet the high demand.

“If we didn’t have Feed My People or good community partners we could not operate,” Trisha says.

Feed My People Executive Director Nancy Renkes says many pantries are in the same boat as Valley Vineyard. The organization has increased deliveries of food, even investing in two new trucks. Renkes says Feed My People has seen a 30 to 35% increase in demand at their own distributions in the last 30 days.

“What we want to say to everyone is if you find yourself in the position where you don’t know how you are going to get food to your family to call us and we can help you find a place to get food,” Renkes says. “If the need was to accelerate we have plans in place for how we would address that and try some new strategies to make sure anyone who needs food has access to that food.”

For people who would like to help the food insecurity crisis in western Wisconsin, Feed My People prefers monetary donations, as Renkes says $1 can be turned into four meals. The pantry also accepts excess grocery items.

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