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Expansion helps De Pere food pantry serve more families

Oct. 20, 2012
 

Stock the Shelves

This year’s Green Bay Press-Gazette Stock the Shelves campaign seeks to raise money for 11 food pantries and programs, including Paul’s Pantry and The Salvation Army, both of Green Bay; The Giving Tree Pantry, Howard; De Pere Christian Outreach Food Pantry, De Pere; Community Cupboard, Denmark; Pulaski Community Center, Pulaski; NEWCAP, Oconto County, Oconto; Kingdom Come Food Pantry, Oconto Falls; Heavenly Business Food Pantry and Kewaunee County Food Pantry, Algoma; Lakeshore CAP, Door County, Sturgeon Bay.
As of Thursday, the campaign had raised $5,170, including $3,975 from participating credit unions and $1,095 from individual donors. To donate, visit www.greenbaypressgazette.com/stocktheshelves.

Help from the De Pere pantry

To be eligible for a food donation, people must live in the De Pere School District. Residents must leave a message for the pantry at (920) 338-9718 by 6 p.m. each Monday in order to receive food that following Wednesday.

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DE PERE — Three boxes of Cherrios and a range of canned goods sit on the shelves at the De Pere Christian Outreach Food Pantry.

That’s all that remains after the pantry served 48 families when it opened Wednesday at its new location at 1827 Chicago St., which is on the east side of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church.

The area’s growing need for food assistance caused the pantry to outgrow its former location, a small closet at St. Anne’s, and led to the summer construction of the new facility that spans almost 3,000 square feet.

More than $100,000 in donations covered the project and the pantry features a cooler, two freezers and a refrigerator. From 10 a.m. to noon each Wednesday, residents pick up boxes from the east-side pantry that include non-perishable food items, as well as eggs, milk, meat, cheese, margarine and bread.

“A lot of people have that attitude that it can’t be happening in De Pere. They look at De Pere as maybe not having the need,” pantry director Susan Casper said about families requesting food. “Well, there’s definitely a need. I’ve seen the growth of it.”

In January 2007, the pantry served 36 families, and this past August that number swelled to a record 175 families — including 316 adults and 279 children, Casper said.

“We don’t turn families away but sometimes what we give them is not enough; but it’s based on what we have on the shelves.”

De Pere Christian Outreach is one of 11 area food pantries and programs that will benefit this year through the Green Bay Press-Gazette Stock the Shelves campaign. The newspaper has set a $100,000 fundraising goal and the six-week effort ends Nov. 25.

Casper said community members always step up to help those in need, and in the coming months the pantry will need more volunteers, as well as countless cans of hearty soups and packages of warm cereals.

Most clients at the De Pere pantry are middle-aged parents, Casper said.

“One or both of the parents have lost their jobs and they’re searching and they’re just not making it; and they have kids to feed.”

Many families are feeling the effect of the recession, which began in December 2007, and have not found success in the current slow-recovering economy, she said.

“The value of the dollar has diminished and the cost of food has obviously risen. They’re just having a hard time making ends meet,” she said.

Typically, the pantry sees an increased need at the end of the school year because children are no longer getting their lunch at school. More residents also need food at the start of the school year and during the upcoming holiday season, she said.

De Pere Christian Outreach, which operates a thrift store at 506 Butler St., supports the pantry, Casper said. The food facility also receives donations through food drives, Great Harvest Bread Company and Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe, among others. St. Norbert Abbey also donates funds to the cause, she added.

The pantry’s grand opening at the new site is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 3.

It’s part of a collaboration between nine churches: First Congregational, First United Presbyterian, Hope Lutheran, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Anne’s Episcopal, St. Francis Xavier, St. John Lutheran, St. Mary Catholic and New Hope United Methodist. Church leaders met in 2006 to find a way to unify food collection efforts, and had operated out of St. Anne’s because that site already had an established pantry, which began in 1985, Casper said.

cedavis@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @pgcharlesdavis.

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