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Northeast Wisconsin food pantries anticipate influx of need with federal assistance expiring

Posted at 10:16 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 23:25:15-04

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — When the pandemic hit in 2020, the federal government released a number of hunger support programs.

But back in May, a national food box initiative came to a close.

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"We saw an uptick when that program ended, so more people were needing to go to the pantry," Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin VP of Government Relations Maureen Fitzgerald said. "And the pantries didn't have a huge supply of food they were used to during the pandemic."

Now another program could expire at the end of this year.

Fitzgerald says emergency pandemic money for people on food stamps will likely end at the start of 2022. That's an extra boost on top of normal food stamp money.

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According to Fitzgerald, food stamps help more than 700,000 Wisconsinites.

The extra dollars could end if the national public health emergency is not extended. And come January, Fitzgerald expects another influx of food bank clients.

"When that sunsets, that's really what we're having our eyes on," she said. "Because that will really change the food help that people are getting right now."

According to Fitzgerald, food stamps help more than 700,000 Wisconsinites. And Feeding America projects over 10 percent of the state will experience food insecurity in 2021.

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Feeding America projects over 10 percent of the state will experience food insecurity in 2021.

"We don't want people to ever think that we're going away or that we won't be here to make sure that people have access to healthy emergency food," Fitzgerald said.

At St. Patrick's Pantry in Green Bay, volunteers Chris and Janice Clemens are already seeing more traffic.

"This week alone is just all of a sudden we're like doubled up what we have been seeing the last few weeks, so there's been an uptick," Janice said.

With COVID hunger-relief expiring, local homeless and food banks fear for consistent meal access

Before winter hits, they'd like to bring on more than the four volunteers they currently have.

"We think we're gonna need to rise above at least five just to keep the uptick," Janice said. "So we're trying to get our volunteer numbers back up."

As local food pantries anticipate increased need, they say they'll have the supply, as long as the community continues to lend a helping hand.

"We're there to help them," Chris Clemens said. "We're there to feed the hungry is what we do."