Local food pantries stepping up to help
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Food pantries throughout the area have been working nonstop to meet the needs of the community, as the pandemic continues to cause hardships.
Over the past year, local pantries have seen a steady influx of families needing a little extra help.
“We saw a huge spike in the number of households registering for groceries (last spring),” said Craig Robbins, executive director for Paul’s Pantry. “Numbers were up and down throughout the summer months.”
Jill Greenwood, food pantry director at Green Bay First, said when the stay-at-home orders were enacted in March through mid-May, the pantry went from being open one day a week to opening its doors seven days a week – offering both drive-up services and home deliveries – to address the need.
“In the beginning there were a lot of sleepless nights wondering and praying on where the food would come from, but God has always provided,” she said. “We have an amazing partnership with Feeding America and Festival Foods. The food goes out as soon as it comes in, but our monetary donations and partnerships have kept us in a solid food supply.”
The pantry is now open three days a week – from 4-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sundays.
“Since March, we have given out over 11,000 bags of food,” Greenwood said. “The demand continues to be high. We are handing out/delivering an average of 260 bags of food per week.”
Previously, people were allowed to shop at Green Bay First in-person once a month.
However, this has changed because of the pandemic.
“We have changed our pantry to a drive-thru service,” she said. “We hand out prepackaged bags of shelf-sustainable food and add in produce, dairy, meat, bread and bakery products – based on availability.”
Robbins said Paul’s Pantry is seeing about 125 households per day, five days a week coming in for food.
To help meet the needs, while maintaining social distancing, Paul’s Pantry has expanded its distribution by one hour.
“This is working well,” Robbins said.
He said the pantry has been able to keep up with the demand thanks to the “generosity of our community.”
Greenwood said she foresees a busier holiday season then in years past for food pantries and is planning accordingly.
“For the holidays, our panty will be open as normal, three days a week,” she said. “We are also providing a Thanksgiving meal to-go on Sunday Nov. 22, while supplies last. And for Christmas, we are providing a drive-thru toy giveaway on Dec. 19, again while supplies last.”
More details on both of these events can be found on Green Bay First’s Facebook page.
“It has been a difficult year for many people and we just feel blessed to be able to serve our community,” Greenwood said. “We are always in need of additional monetary donations to keep this service going, because at this current time, I don’t see us ever being open less than three days a week.”