Stock the Shelves: Pantries prepare for rising food prices

Nov. 4, 2012

Stock the Shelves

Individual donors gave $410 within two days to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Stock the Shelves campaign, bringing the fundraising total to $11,680 as of Thursday. The six-week effort, which ends Nov. 25, has a $100,000 goal. To donate, visit

For information about the Community Cupboard food pantry in Denmark, call (920) 863-8725. Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay can be reached at (920) 433-0343.


DENMARK — Food prices are expected to rise next year, and that may mean fewer donations to local food pantries.

“If families pay more money to put food on their table, they have less money to donate,” said Terri Gajeski, who along with her husband Russ coordinates operations for the Community Cupboard food pantry in Denmark. “It’s definitely going to affect our families.”

Community Cupboard is one of 11 area food pantries or programs set to benefit from the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Stock the Shelves campaign, which seeks to raise $100,000. The six-week effort ends Nov. 25.

Above-normal price increases for food are anticipated next year, due in large part to this year’s Midwest drought that damaged corn, apples, cherries and other crops. The drought also impacted the cost of livestock feed, and prompted more than 20 counties in southern Wisconsin to be named primary natural-disaster areas, a move that allowed farmers to be eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

Food prices normally rise 2 to 3 percent a year. In 2013, grocery prices are expected to rise 3 to 4 percent , with beef to increase up to 5 percent and dairy products up to 4.5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Restaurant prices may go up 2.5 to 3.5 percent.

This year, food prices are estimated to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent .

It all likely adds up to less food for people who need help, Gajeski said.

“I definitely expect to see (the number of clients) increase and us probably going to give less because we just are not going to have the money or the resources to stretch,” she said.

The pantry now serves 95 families — including 117 children and 157 adults — and is open 2 -4 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month. Volunteers distribute food from inside a Denmark War Memorial Park shelter. Walk-ins are accepted and the food typically lasts a family up to two weeks. The pantry is seeing an increase in seniors and families with several children, she said. Clients are required to live in Denmark or surrounding rural areas, and must meet income guidelines.

Most donations to the pantry come from Denmark-area businesses, organizations and individuals, Gajeski said.

The pantry spends about $200 to $300 a month on food, and Gajeski said she works with clients to find recipes for inexpensive meals.

In Green Bay, Paul’s Pantry received less sweet corn from local farmers this year, though director Craig Robbins said he didn’t see any other decrease in fresh produce donations. Due to the drought, local corn this summer cost about $8 a bushel, which is $2.50 above normal, according to Brown County UW-Extension.

Robbins said the pantry is assisting more households, and families that had visited the pantry once a month now are coming twice.

“This past year was one of our busiest years ever, and we’re planning on next year being busier than this year,” he said.

The pantry recorded 43,185 visits from families from October 2011 through September, up almost 13 percent from the previous fiscal year and a 48-percent increase from a decade ago, Robbins said.

“As the community grows, the need grows; and if job growth isn’t keeping up with everything, this is the result,” he said.

The pantry distributes food from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Mondays through Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Clients already have started to ask about the availability of packaged venison, which is donated to Paul’s Pantry and others each year through the Hunt for the Hungry program, Robbins said.

“The community is definitely in need of the assistance,” he said. and follow him on Twitter @pgcharlesdavis.

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