The number of people in need of food from the Waupaca Area Food Pantry is up, while donations are down.
“I think it’s a confluence of everything. It’s a still struggling economy, rising gas prices, rising food prices, and we’re more visible here,” said Kathy Jenner, who is the pantry’s volunteer operations manager.
Earlier this year, the Waupaca Area Food Pantry moved to 800 Churchill St.
Since that time, the number of people seeking emergency food assistance increased 20 percent, she said.
“People who have never come to the food pantry before because they were able to sustain their families are now coming in,” Jenner said.
The pantry, which serves qualifying families in the Waupaca School District, is seeing about 220 families per month, she said.
Every month, the pantry sees about 20 families on each of the first two days it is open. In September, she expects the pantry to see 30 families on each of the first two days it is open.
Jenner said summer is always a tough time for food pantries.
The number of people in need of food tends to increase in the summer, she said, because children do not have access to free or reduced lunch at school and to the weekend food supply provided by Project Backpack.
Family budgets become stressed in August, as families pay for school supplies, clothes and registration fees at school.
And, as the number of people needing food goes up, the amount of food goes down, Jenner said.
When the Waupaca Area Food Pantry opened at its new site in early February, it had eight freezers full of food and shelves full of food. Today, it has about three freezers full of food, and empty boxes have replaced full shelves.
Jenner said both the quantity and quality of donations has decreased.
As people vacation in the summer, they may forget about the needs of the food pantry.
In addition, not as many food drives are held, especially since school is not in session, she said.
Since last year, commodity support has dropped almost 30 percent and is expected to drop another 3 percent to 6 percent this year.
The weak economy and rising gas and food prices affect both clients and donors, Jenner said.
The food pantry is expanding its hours to meet the increase in client demand.
Beginning Sept. 10, on the second Monday of each month, the pantry will be open from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
This will be in addition to its current hours of 9 a.m to 11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Jenner knows that after school begins, food drives will again be organized. Until then, the food pantry is in need of donations.
In particular, the pantry needs canned pasta and chicken, canned soups, ramen noodles, canned fruit, peanut butter, jelly, baking supplies, jello, breakfast cereals, crackers and condiments, such as mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and salad dressings.
She asks donors to check expiration dates on items; the pantry cannot accept opened or expired food.