No summer vacation for hunger
Trinity youth to collect food during parade
By Angie Landsverk
Trinity Lutheran Church will hold its fourth annual Hunger Does Not Take A Vacation food drive during Waupaca’s July 4 parade.
Members of the congregation’s youth group will push shopping carts as they walk the parade route and collect non-perishable food items for the Waupaca Area Food Pantry.
People should not bring glass items for the food drive.
Those who forget to bring food items to the parade will also be able to drop monetary donations into buckets the youth carry, said Kathy Jenner, the pantry’s volunteer operations manager.
“We can’t control what we get,” she said of the donations it receives.
The pantry is in particular need of condiments, pancake mix, syrup, beans, jam, jelly and canned tomatoes.
“And, you can never go wrong with soup and crackers,” Jenner said.
Other items the pantry typically needs include cooking oil, flour and sugar.
“We rarely get them,” she said.
Parker Kantos and Maddy Frank, the church’s summer interns, are organizing the food drive.
“We really appreciate you doing this,” Jenner told them.
Frank, who will be walking in the parade, said, “Why not do it? It’s one of the times all of Waupaca is together.”
The local food pantry recently received a number of large donations.
Among them were a record 9,800 pounds from this May’s postal service food drive, about 800 pounds of food items from St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community and about 1,200 pounds of food from Dollar Tree through Feeding America.
In addition, Aldi’s just became part of the Direct Connect Program through Feeding America, which connects local grocery stores to food pantries.
The grocery store recently began donating food items to Waupaca’s pantry.
Jenner said the packaging may be damaged, or the item’s expiration date is getting close.
The food pantry is also beginning to receive produce from the Waupaca Community Garden.
“We still need the Fourth of July drive,” she said.
That is because the food pantry continues to see between 200 and 230 families visit it each month.
“The numbers grow in the summer,” Jenner said.
She attributes that to children living with different family members than they do during the school year.
In addition, families whose children qualify for free or reduced lunches at school find themselves needing help during the summer.
“The food drives which just took place will take us through the summer,” said Linda Holtebeck, who is the president of the pantry’s board.
Jenner said a minimum of 12,000 pounds of food goes out of the pantry each month.
She called that a conservative number and said August and November are the two busiest months at the pantry.
In August, parents face the costs of school supplies and clothing for their school-aged children, Jenner said.
Families may visit the food pantry once a month, and she said the largest number of their clients are in the one to three family members range.
They leave the pantry with between $150 and $200 worth of groceries, she said.
During the summer, when produce from the community garden is added, they may receive 100 pounds of food per month, Jenner said.
“I don’t think the average person understands the amount of food going through here,” Holtebeck said.
She said the food pantry is meant to be a bridge and to help people.
Kantos believes food insecurity is something hidden in communities, including in the Waupaca area.
Nationally, one in five children may not know where his next meal is coming from, Jenner said.
Having a food drive during the July 4 parade is a way to expose local residents to the fact there are people here dealing with hunger and make residents familiar with the work of the food pantry, Kantos said.
Jenner said many people do not want others to know they are struggling.
Kantos said they appreciate Neumann’s Piggly Wiggly’s assistance with the food drive, as the grocery store is lending them their grocery carts.
He also encourages those who are not attending the parade to donate food items at other times to the pantry.
The pantry is open from 9-11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Those interested in volunteering there may contact the pantry at 715-256-1645 during those hours.
“I hope we have a good turnout,” Frank said of this year’s July 4 food drive. “We will be using youth group this week to decorate and will get them to push the carts.”