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Paul's Pantry will not hold World Food Day ceremony for the first time in 37 years

People collect food at the pantry in Green Bay, WI.
Posted at 2:55 PM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 20:32:08-04

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — Every year, volunteers, school children and community members come together on October 16th to celebrate World Food Day at Paul’s Pantry. But not this year.

Craig Robbins, Executive Director of Paul’s Pantry, said it wasn’t safe to put on their usual activities today due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he still wants people to observe this internationally recognized day.

“It’s just kind of a day to remind people that hunger is real, and it exists in our community,” said Robbins.

Eric Genrich, mayor of Green Bay, signed an official proclamation that October 16th will be recognized in the city as World Food Day, encouraging people to donate. The pantry distributes an average of 20 thousand pounds of food each day, said Robbins, but with more people in need than ever before, they're asking the community for help.

“It’s going to be a tough go for a lot of people this year,” said Robbins. “Keep those folks that maybe have lost their jobs or had hours cut because of the pandemic in my mind.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the pantry received tons of donations, said Robbins. The momentum has since slowed, and with Winter coming, they’re encouraging people to set aside funds in their holiday budgets to help out.

“In the beginning there was such an outpouring of generosity,” said Robbins. “It was unbelievable. It was like Christmas here.”

Volunteer hours are down by 14,000 hours because many of the people who regularly help out are older or in at-risk groups for COVID-19.

“We miss them very much,” said Robbins. “But we’d rather see them safe and healthy.”

Jennifer Lieberenz has been volunteering since the beginning of the pandemic, and says anyone who feels comfortable should come help out, because they’re so short on volunteers.

“You get to just see the light in their eyes when they know they’re going to be okay,” she said.

She she wants people in the community to understand there is a very high need for donations right now.

“We’re in a new age,” she said. “We’re in a new time where I don’t think those people who have lived here their whole lives are aware of the need that we have here now.”

She also wants people to know that there’s enough food for everyone who needs it, and there’s no shame in acknowledging that you are in need right now.

“We’re here,” said Lieberenz. “We’ve been open the whole time. Come, get what you need.”

You can drop off food donations any time Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m at 1513 Leo Frigo Way in Green Bay. If you are interested in volunteering, call 920-433-0343 or email Leslie Sharkey at leslie@paulspantry.org.