MCF Makes Grants to Help Food Pantries Prepare for Winter

St Vincent shelter
The new shelter at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry will help protect staff, volunteers, and the food this winter.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an incredible economic toll on the residents of Dane County, driving up unemployment and food insecurity. Overall, the four largest area pantries – Middleton Outreach Ministry, St. Vincent de Paul, River Food Pantry, and Badger Prairie Needs Network – have seen a 60% increase in use of their services.

  • At Middleton Outreach Ministry, first-time family usage has quintupled since the pandemic began.
  • River Food Pantry anticipates serving 8,000 families in 2020, up from 5,000 last year.
  • St. Vincent de Paul’s pantry has been serving more than 115 families a day since the pandemic started, and its pharmacy continues to provide life-saving medicine to people without insurance.
  • Badger Prairie Needs Network has expanded its service area to include all of Dane County, and is on pace to serve more than 23,000 people this year.

To help meet those needs while ensuring the safety of clients, staff, and volunteers, the pantries have overhauled their delivery systems. During the spring and summer, pantries were able to provide outdoor food distribution, allowing clients to drive through and pick up food, rather than coming into the building. But with winter fast approaching, this will be hard to sustain without investment to provide shelter against the elements for staff, volunteers, clients, and even the food itself.

Working with Dane County, other local foundations, and churches, MCF has made a proactive capacity-building grant to Middleton Outreach Ministry, St. Vincent de Paul, River Food Pantry, and Badger Prairie Needs Network. The grant will allow these organizations to build heated, permanent outdoor structures to continue safe distribution throughout the winter.

MOM shelter
Overhangs have been installed at Middleton Outreach Ministries to provide protection from the elements this winter.

“Our staff and volunteers have worked incredibly hard to meet the needs of the growing number of people facing food insecurity during the pandemic,” says Ellen Carlson, Executive Director of Middleton Outreach Ministry. “And while we’ve been able to minimize the health risks to our staff and clients by moving distribution outside, the colder weather will make this unsustainable. This grant will help us provide heat and shelter for our clients, our staff, and the food this winter.”

As with many organizations, volunteers are essential to the operations of the pantries. And while volunteers at these organizations are passionate in their commitment to serving their neighbors in need, being able to do so safely and comfortably throughout the winter will make their tasks more pleasant – and increase the likelihood that people will be comfortable continuing to volunteer.

“Cold-weather adaptation funds directed our way by Madison Community Foundation will add measures of shelter, warmth, and light for dedicated volunteers and staff members here as they serve neighbors curbside with food and medicine through the winter,” said Ernie Stetenfeld, Chief Executive Officer of St. Vincent de Paul echoed those sentiments. “We are grateful for this foresight and generosity.”

“At a time when so many residents of Dane County are facing deep challenges, Madison Community Foundation is fortunate to be in a position to mitigate hardship and provide support,” said Bob Sorge, MCF’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

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