Chippewa Valley food pantries gear up in response to the end of extra COVID-19 food benefits

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 4:09 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, the state of Wisconsin has decided to end the extra COVID-19 food share benefits. Now, local food pantries are gearing up to meet the increasing demand.

Suzanne Becker, the Executive Director at Feed My People Food Bank says the end of federal food benefits is coming at a financially difficult time.

“The allotments going away March 1st and at a time where the prices in the grocery store are still high, gas prices are still high, there’s a lot of families that this is going to have a very negative effect on,” Becker said.

TJ Atkins, the Executive Director of the Community Table, a local hotspot for free meal services, said these benefits cuts will impact the entire community.

“I think it will impact the community greatly, not just the individuals on it,” Atkins said. “We have about, a little over 13,000 households that are on food share right now just in Eau Claire and we have 20,000 individuals that are on food share in Eau Claire.”

Although local food pantries have been gearing up to face these cuts some are already seeing a higher demand from the community. The Community Table typically feeds 50 to 60 people a day, however that number is increasing.

“We are seeing those numbers increase,” Atkins said. We have had a couple of days last week that were a little over 80 people that we served in our dining room, so yeah, we are starting to see that trend already.”

Becker said they are already facing higher demands as well.

“Two weeks ago we had extremely high numbers,” Becker said. “We had cars wrapped all the way around the bend outside and you know, we talked to a lot of those folks and really there’s fear, there’s anxiety, there’s just a lot of worry.”

Even though some may be feeling fearful about the cuts, the executive directors at the Community Table and Feed My People want the community to know that they are available to help.

“I really would ask that the community help spread the word that help is there,” Becker said. “If you know somebody, or you indeed need a little bit of extra food, we are there for you. Especially if you are going to see a reduction in your benefits please give us a call, go to our website we will connect you with something that is in your area.”

“There’s lots of food resources in Eau Claire, we are very blessed and gifted with that,” Atkins said. “We have lots of food pantries, there’s pop up panties that Feed My People do, we have food here at the Community Table that people have, and we occasionally have a food pantry as well, so there’s options for people.

Both locations are always looking for volunteers and donations. To find out how to can help at the Community Table click here. To find out how you can help at Feed My People click here.