Holiday food drive for pantry
More families needing help
By Angie Landsverk
The second annual Holiday Food Drive is being held for the Waupaca Area Food Pantry.
“These are the things they could really use this time of year to make the holidays special,” said Christi Gabrilska.
She is the FoodWise nutrition coordinator in Waupaca County and also part of Living the Waupaca Way.
The local coalition is again helping to support this food drive for the pantry.
People are being asked to consider donating stuffing mix, gravy, cranberry sauce, canned yams, baked beans, chili beans, pie filling, prepared pie crusts, evaporated milk, olives, pickles, French fried onions, pickled vegetables, hot chocolate, tea, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, chili powder and also cake and cookie mixes.
People may donate such items for the Holiday Food Drive at the pantry when it is open.
Donations of turkeys and hams are also accepted at the pantry during its hours.
Located at 800 Churchill St., in Waupaca, the food pantry is currently open only from 9-11 a.m. Monday and Friday.
The pantry serves people who live in the Waupaca and Iola-Scandinavia school districts.
They may visit it once a month.
People may receive information about income qualifications by calling 715-256-1645.
The pantry also has a Facebook page, where updates are posted.
“Numbers are up,” Linda Holtebeck said in regard to how many people are visiting the pantry.
She is the president of the pantry’s board of directors.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry continue to distribute prepacked bags of food to clients.
The pantry moved the food distribution to its parking lot last March 20.
Holtebeck said people pull up in their vehicles, and someone from the pantry then approaches to obtain their information.
Clients drive to the back of the building to receive a bag of food that is based on the size of their family.
Pantry volunteers cart the bags of food out the back door and put the bags in the vehicles, she said.
“There is no contact at all,” Holtebeck said. “Everyone wears a mask. That process is working quite well.”
She said they tell clients that if there is something in their bag they do no like, they should pass it on to a neighbor.
This distribution process is expected to be in place at least through next May, Holtebeck said.
“We are starting to accept food (donations),” she said.
The pantry received about 2,500 pounds of food from Haunted Hallow’s collection and about 1,600 pounds of food from Jim Miller’s annual pumpkin display collection.
Holtebeck said food donations are placed on a pallet and set aside for a period of time before volunteers process them.
“Monetary donations are really the best,” she said.
Those donations allow the pantry to fill its shelves where needed.
Checks, payable to the Waupaca Area Food Pantry, may be sent to the pantry at P.O. Box 565, Waupaca, WI 54981, or dropped off when it is open.
In addition, the pantry needs a number of essential items throughout the year.
This includes soup (especially vegetable soups), whole-wheat crackers, peanut butter, canned fruits (low sugar), canned vegetables (low salt), personal toiletries (full-size soap bars, shampoo, toothpaste, conditioner, female hygiene products, shaving cream), rice, jam, jelly, spices, juice boxes and macaroni and cheese.
Seasonal food donations needed
Gabrilska said it is important for the pantry to receive a variety of food donations – especially seasonal items this time of year – so volunteers are able to put new items in the prepacked bags.
“Think about what makes the holiday special,” she said.
A traditional item like green bean casserole cannot be made without the French fried onions, she said.
The pantry has designated freezer space for donated turkeys and hams, said Hailee Struck, the FoodWise nutrition educator in Waupaca County.
She said the food pantry’s curbside pickup makes it a safe process for families visiting it.
Families may have smaller gatherings this Thanksgiving and Christmas due to the pandemic.
That is why it is even more important to have special holiday food items for those who visit the pantry, Gabrilska said.
She encourages everyone who who wants to donate food to their local pantries to first call them to find out what they need right now.