MADISON, Wis. — Michelle Oglivie has been volunteering at the River Food Pantry for a year.
“People will wait in the line sometimes and it can take from an hour and a half to two hours,” said Oglivie.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, demand has continued to increase at the River Food Pantry. From 2022 to 2023, there has been a 20% increase in the number of people the pantry serves.
Oglivie has noticed many of those people are first-time visitors.
“A lot of people probably never thought they would be here and a lot of people might come through and be like, ‘this is my first time here, how does this work?’” said Oglivie.
If Congress fails to pass the government funding bill by Oct. 1, it would cause the 22nd government shutdown in the last five decades. A shutdown could cause even more people visiting the food pantry as many government employees would be furloughed or without pay.
Hellen Osborn-Senatus is the director of operations at River Food Pantry, and she said they would be more than ready to meet that need.
“We are dedicated to serving our community, so if the government does shut down we will continue to serve food and meals just as we have been,” said Osborn-Senatus.
Community members can benefit from the River Food Pantry’s wide variety of programs. From curbside groceries to meal delivery services and even an ePantry, Osborn-Senatus said there are options for everyone.
“We try to be as accessible as possible and that is why we serve through eight different programs,” said Osborn-Senatus. “We work really hard to get a variety of food from many different sources so we can keep our inventory high enough to serve everyone who comes.”
A shutdown would also affect families benefiting from federally funded health and nutrition programs.
“If they don’t get those benefits, they might come here every week instead of once a month, but like I said whatever happens we will work really hard to make sure we can be here and continue to serve,” said Osborn-Senatus.
Oglivie sees people from all walks of life come to the food pantry.
“People that are working, people that are students […] just right now, groceries have become too expensive,” said Oglivie.
Oglivie wants the community to know that everyone is welcome at the River Food Pantry. Government shutdown or not, Osborn-Senatus and her team will be there to help.
The River Food Pantry said it’s always in need of volunteers and donations. Those looking to get involved can click here.