Bill Jacob unloads cases of food from a semi truck for Feeding America’s food distribution on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wis. The nonprofit organization has been feeding 500-700 households each time they have food drop-offs in Green Bay. (Photo: Ebony Cox/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
GREEN BAY – By 9:30 a.m. on Wednesdays at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay campus, you’ll see about 200 cars lined up ready to pick up food.
The line stretches far and splits into multiple lanes. Community members pick up boxes of food from semitrucks organized by Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin and Valley Cooperative Association, a Greenville-based food distribution business.
“It looks like Disney World,” said Patti Habeck, CEO and president of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. “We use a big parking lot and we set up cones, and then we snake through the cones back-and-forth, back-and-forth, so we can move that many cars very quickly.”
Typically, an event like this will get boxes of food to at least 500 households. In some weeks, as many as about 700 cars have picked up food, Habeck said.
Hundreds of cars line up during Feeding America’s food distribution on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wis. The nonprofit organization has been feeding 500-700 households each time they have food drop-offs in Green Bay. (Photo: Ebony Cox/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
The need for hunger relief in Wisconsin is grave because of unemployment due to the pandemic, a competitive job market and looming health risks to vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and immunocompromised people.
Amid the growing demand for assistance, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin is running its annual Stock the Shelves campaign that encourages readers to donate money to help fight hunger in their local communities. The campaign ends Oct. 31. Since 2010, Stock the Shelves has raised $5 million for food pantries across Wisconsin thanks to the donations of newspaper readers and support of community partners, including Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.
Feeding America uses the donations to distribute food to partnering food pantries. Readers can steer their dollars to specific local communities in the comment area of electronic donations or on checks made payable to: Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, ATTN: Stock The Shelves, 2911 W. Evergreen Drive, Appleton, WI 54913.
Valley Cooperative Association has been sending one truck of food weekly to the drop-off at NWTC’s Green Bay campus, but for the past couple of weeks and on Oct. 7 it sent two trucks. On Wednesday, each car received three boxes of food.
Through its affiliations, the co-op can buy a variety of fresh food. They pack grilled chicken, meatballs, potatoes, apples, yogurt, cheese, carrots and milk into the boxes.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College alumna Marie Patz, middle, loads boxes of food into trunks along with Tracey Schabel, left, and Pete Fernandez, right, during Feeding America’s food distribution on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at NWTC in Green Bay, Wis. The nonprofit organization has been feeding 500-700 households each time they have food drop-offs in Green Bay. (Photo: Ebony Cox/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
“There’s definitely a need, I’ll tell you that much,” said Rich Wise, CEO of Valley Cooperative Association. “The smiling faces that you see when you load a box into somebody’s car means you’re, realistically, changing somebody’s life at that point.”
The range of fresh food helps families like Green Bay resident Devon Mohrbacher’s.
“My son’s autistic so he’s very picky, and the food that they did provide is just exactly what he likes,” Mohrbacher said. “So, it helps a lot.”
Mohrbacher has been working hard to find a new job, but the market is competitive with mass unemployment and few positions open. She even moved a few months ago from Algoma to Green Bay in the hope of finding more job opportunities.
NWTC student Ellie Stiles of Door County and other students take turns picking up boxes of food for their families. They have food drives in Door County as well, “but everything helps,” Stiles said.
“I just think this is wonderful,” Stiles said. “I haven’t been here for a while but I see there are quite a few people here, which is awesome.”
With her commitment to school and the need to pay for internet in order to attend classes online, Stiles finds the food pick-ups helpful as she and many community members weather through the pandemic.
The food drop-off program is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, as well as food distributors and farmers who, because of the pandemic, might have lost business from restaurants and food service.
Drop-offs are generally weekly, and the schedule can be found on Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin’s website. Typically, 10 drop-offs happen per week across northeastern Wisconsin. At this time, the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program is projected to finish at the end of October.
The program partners with food distributors like Valley Cooperative Association and farmers to gain back business while fighting hunger. Farmers and distributors lost business when restaurant and food service had to close down or serve at reduced capacity because of COVID-19.
The co-op distributes baked goods to grocers like Festival Foods, universities and even Lambeau Field, Wise said. This USDA program helps fill the void in business that came when many buyers shut down or began operating at reduced capacity.
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin’s Stock the Shelves campaign encourages readers to help fight hunger locally through Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Contact Nusaiba Mizan at (920)-431-8310 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @nusaiblah.
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