MENASHA, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — A half dozen cars lined up outside the St. Joseph Food Program late Wednesday morning.
Each driver waited their turn before pulling up to a side door marked with a large sign reading FOOD HERE. A pair of volunteers quickly loaded bagged groceries, milk and packages of toilet paper before telling the occupants, “have a good day.”
The next car pulled up and the process began again.
A month into the coronavirus pandemic, the program is seeing numbers increase weekly after initially experiencing a decline in clients.
While some food pantries in large urban areas in other parts of the country have faced an onslaught of clients, the situation is much more manageable in the Fox Valley. But the need for help could change as the employment and economic ramifications of the pandemic take deeper root.
Across Wisconsin more than 400,000 people have filed for unemployment insurance in the past month.
“People tend to want to use their own resources first,” said Monica Clare, the program’s executive director. “People are receiving stimulus checks; unemployment numbers have gone up; food stamp numbers have gone up, so they’re getting some funds from various sources. As those things stop happening and people don’t have those available any more, then they’ll start to use the pantry more to make up the difference.”
That’s what happened in the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.
Clare said it’s possible the program could end up helping as many as 1,500 families a week if this situation plays out like it did more than a decade ago.
Thanks to community support, St. Joseph said it’s prepared to handle an uptick in requests for help and is encouraging people who need help to contact them.