As we evaluate the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison Food Pantry use month-by-month since 2019, we see a remarkable pattern. The 2019 line (blue) remained steady throughout the year. In 2020 (red) pantry use reflected the changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout its first year. In 2021 (yellow), as federal funds, particularly advance child tax credit and stimulus payments, became available to families, pantry use dropped significantly to lower than historical use throughout the year. Presumably more people had money to provide for their family’s food needs. In January 2022 (green), pantry use began where it left off the month before with an upward trend that in August more than doubled last year’s pantry visits.
A slight dip in September follows historical trends, likely due to the return of children to school where breakfast and lunch are available to them. October is traditionally our busiest month, and the six pantry days before Thanksgiving have been the busiest each year. We had a record-breaking day with 205 families on August 26 and eclipsed that record on September 29 with 215 families. Each Thursday in October set a new record. November is generally a busy month at the pantry, with the days before Thanksgiving the highest each year. Thursdays continued to be record-setting days through the Thursday before Thanksgiving becoming our now largest-ever day with 277 families. Instead of tailing off in December as has been our history, we served the most households in a single month than ever before, with 2568 households using the pantry that month.
It’s a bright sunny afternoon in late October as Kamaria* finishes her work day as a caregiver. She smiles, says hello when I walk up to her car to chat. Yesterday included two shifts, one for each of her employers, 12 hours in total. She is tired.
“Caregiving is a hard job,” Kamaria says. “But it’s good. If people didn’t like it, they wouldn’t do it.”
Kamaria’s third job is being a mom to three teenagers. Her youngest is 14.
“I am so busy, they keep me on the run,” Kamaria says.
Her final stop before going home is the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.
“I have been coming to the pantry for a long time,” Kamaria explains. “It helps, it really helps. Especially now with how expensive food is.”
Increased need for food
As pantry staff member Ashleigh loads Kamaria’s groceries into her front seat, she smiles and laughs that her kids can help her unload once she gets home. The boxes and bags are heavy with fresh produce and pantry staples. Cooking oil and other baking items are particularly bulky and hard to afford on her budget.
“The kids eat all of the food, they can unload it,” Kamaria laughs. “I cook healthy food all of the time. My kids love fruits and vegetables. Anything fresh.”
The rising prices of food, gas and utilities are hurting her ability to care for her children. She gets food from the pantry to be able to afford other bills.
The St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry is open four days a week to provide groceries to families and individuals. Each month since May of this year an increasing average number of households have turned to the pantry for help with food. Rising costs hit people with limited incomes the hardest forcing them to make hard choices and adding stress to their lives.
A blessing of time and convenience
Kamaria struggles to find time to balance all of the demands of her day: working two jobs, managing a household and raising three hungry teenagers. She uses Pantry2Home (formally PantryPal), the online food ordering system. She credits the resource as a game-changer for her family.
“The online order has been good. I come home from work and don’t have time to wait in line and have to go right home and cook,” Kamaria says. “A friend from work told me about this service. I am so glad I learned about this.”
Placing an online order relieves the burden of time from families stretched thin, allows them to choose exactly which pantry items they need, reduces food waste and offers greater flexibility for cultural preferences and dietary restrictions. Online orders are easy to make for people using the pantry. They visit the Food Pantry page of our website and click the Pantry2Home button to place an order for pickup, or the DoorDash button to place an order for delivery.
Currently, about 20 families place and pick up orders each Monday, Tuesday and Friday. On Thursday, that number exceeds 50 families as DoorDash drivers deliver the orders to 25- 40 families, in addition to those who choose to pick up their orders. Pantry staff and volunteers work hard to pack all of these orders while still managing the drive-through pantry service. Your generosity fed an average of 145 households each pantry day last month.
“You guys do wonderful things. I don’t like to waste food and with the online ordering I can choose exactly what I know my kids will eat,” Kamaria reaffirms.
Kamaria relies on the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry to feed her family and give her hope. Your care for and generosity to her and thousands of neighbors like her is tremendous. You make moving forward together in hope possible.
*Name changed to maintain the neighbor’s privacy. Photos are representational.
Donate now to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry
Due to rising costs of food and gas, more people are going hungry in Dane County and turning to food pantries for help.
On November 22nd, 2022 we plan to raise $22,000 in 24 hours to fund programs providing food, medicine, housing and more to neighbors in need here in Dane County.
Donate now to help people in need
Each day this month celebrate 24 Days of Thankfulness
Leading up to Our Giving Tuesday, take a moment to recognize everything you have to be grateful for, celebrate loved ones and share thankfulness! Download the 24 Days Of Thankfulness schedule here.
Each week, hundreds of households turn to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry for food. In order for households to have fresh produce, meat, dairy, bakery items and more, we need your help. If you care about food security, helping your community and lending a hand to people in need, then join our volunteer team! Flexible volunteer positions are available on weekday mornings and afternoons. Some volunteer positions in our food pantry require the ability to bend, lift and carry up to 20 lbs. at a time, but not all. Ready to help? Apply now or contact Zoe Lavender for more information.
Lend a hand to:
Load food outside: HIGH PRIORITY
If you would prefer to work outside assisting with our drive-through food pantry, this would be the position for you! Your primary responsibility would be to load food into vehicles as they come through the drive-through. This does require a bit more lifting and carrying, the items will be about 15- 20 pounds. (We do need a weekly commitment for this specific volunteer duty).
Control drive-through traffic: HIGH PRIORITY
Have you always wanted to be a crossing guard? Is blaze yellow your color of choice? We have an opportunity you can’t miss! Join the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry volunteer team as a traffic controller. As the pantry gets busier, help cars navigate the line and keep everyone safe.
Pack food boxes
This position involves filling boxes or bags with canned and dry goods (between 15- 18 pounds). Package pantry staples, cooking supplies and nonperishable items. You will also stock and sort some food donations.
This position requires lifting and transporting cases of food. The cases can weigh up to 20 pounds, but many are not as heavy (between 10- 15 pounds). We have pallets of food stored in the back of the pantry and this job will entail taking a flat pushcart into the back and bringing up cases of canned and dry goods to stock the table that our food box packers are using to fill their boxes.
Sort and package food
We are in need of volunteers to assist with sorting food donations and packaging them into bags so they can be distributed outside in the drive-through. We are currently limited in morning availability however we are in need of volunteers for the afternoon shifts to help with a second round of bagging food once our pantry is in full swing for the day.
Fill online orders
We are in need of volunteers to help fill our online order requests. This job serves as a personal shopper. You’ll be given a list of items for an order and you’ll package them into bags and boxes accordingly. This will include various dry goods, dairy and frozen meat. Once the order is complete, you’ll label the orders and organize them onto shelves to await pickup.
The Feast of St. Isadore, patron saint of farmers, saw St. Vincent de Paul — Madison volunteers and staff come together for the annual blessing of Lacy Garden, a member of Madison Area Food Pantry Gardens.
Msgr. Larry Bakke led the blessing, which included a reminder from the book of Genesis that God has called us to be stewards of his creation. The gathered group prayed for a bountiful harvest to provide food for families coping with food insecurity in our community. Msgr. Bakke, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison, reflected that God’s work began in a garden and continued in a garden after Christ’s resurrection.
Tom Lacy, carrying on the tradition established by his late parents, invites volunteers to use 1.25 acres of the family farmland each year. In the garden’s 23rd year, planting began in early May, and harvesting will happen into October.
In a typical year, the Lacy Garden provides about 20,000 pounds of vegetables for distribution to people at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. Crops grown at the garden include asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, melons, squash and more.
This year, for the first time, a summer intern, Becks Gatewood, will learn and support the work of garden volunteers: individuals, families, corporate groups and youth group members. These workers are crucial to a successful harvest. Getting involved is rewarding. No previous gardening experience is necessary. Regular work sessions are held on Monday and Thursday evenings, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. You can find more information about the Lacy Garden and volunteer registration here.