Eau Claire food banks serve record number of people as donations decrease ahead of holidays

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 5:44 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Food insecurity in Western Wisconsin is growing as inflation and grocery costs are on the rise.

The Department of Agriculture predicts in 2023 all food prices will increase 5.8% from 2022.

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, executive director of Feed My People in Eau Claire, Suzanne Becker, says the organization has felt that financial strain.

“Since September 30th we have served as many people this year as we served all of last year. We are seeing a lot of working families, a lot of seniors, and daycare is a real challenge right now. Again, the cost of food in the grocery store is just extremely high,” Becker said.

Becker said as more Wisconsinites come in, the demand for food is much higher than the supply.

“We are seeing a record decrease in donated food coming through the warehouse right now. That’s something that’s happening across the country,” Becker said.

On Monday, Feed My People had nearly 300 families in its warehouse for food distribution. Executive director of The Community Table, TJ Atkins, says they’re now serving over 100 people each day.

“To see that increase during this time of year is kind of unsettling,” Atkins said.

Atkins said some of the increase may be due to the disappearance of pandemic resources.

“A lot of people that might have been receiving some COVID pandemic, FoodShare money, those are all changed. It leaves kind of a gap for people in terms of how they’re going to meet that need,” Atkins said.

According to Feeding America, over 427,000 people face hunger and about 142,000 are children. That’s why local food banks stress the significance of ensuring no one goes hungry on Thanksgiving.

“It makes our whole community stronger. If we can raise up folks in our community who are struggling right now, if we can provide them with food, they can direct their limited budgets to other things like childcare and rent and medical costs,” Becker said.

Both organizations say monetary donations and volunteering are the best ways to help people dealing with food insecurity this holiday season.

Feed My People is hosting a Thanksgiving pop-up pantry on November 22nd. The Community Table offers a free meal to anyone, every single day of the year. Hope Gospel Mission and Saving Grace Lutheran Church will also offer free meals on Thanksgiving Day.