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Nourish Our Community

If you are one of the many people in the Spring Green area having trouble feeding your family, what can you do? You can depend on help from the Spring Green Community Food Pantry.

I visited there recently and pulled up near a huge truck from Second Harvest Food Bank. Volunteers were unloading food from the truck, while inside the building it was being sorted under the direction of Heather Chastain, the pantry manager. Heather explained to me that the pantry now provides food for about 1,000 people each month. Anyone who has need can use the pantry’s services, but most of those who use it are from Spring Green, Plain, Arena, Lone Rock and Clyde. The number served has quadrupled over the last several years. Founded by a group of volunteers over 25 years ago, the pantry is dependent on donations to pay rent, provide a small salary to Heather (who probably works 60 to 80 hour weeks), and to purchase food from Second Harvest Food Bank in Dane County and area stores.

The goal and passion of Heather and these dedicated volunteers is to do all they can to make sure people in our area are not going hungry. This is also their challenge. Providing food to this number of people is possible because Heather and many volunteers contribute hours of their time to obtain and shelve the food, take orders, and organize and package the food in preparation for distribution and because of donations made by local businesses, individual donors and occasional fundraising events.

Spring Green Community Food Pantry is a non-profit organization (501(c)(3) that purchases about 50% of its food from Second Harvest Food Bank in Dane County. In addition to preparing for a monthly distribution, volunteers purchase the other 50% of the food needed each month at Walmart, Aldi’s and other lower-priced grocery stores. With an overhead of over $100,000 annually (up from $40,000 a few years ago), it is easy to see why the pantry operates in the red most of the time.

Can people donate food? In order to make certain that the food people really need is available for each distribution, with few exceptions and given the limitations of available storage space and refrigeration, most donations must be monetary most of the year. In the summer, a community garden cared for by volunteers, grows vegetables for the pantry. Residents frequently share from their own gardens also, but in light of storage limitations, the timing of these donations is critical. Space is a major issue. The pantry is grateful to rent space from the Spring Green Community Church but they have outgrown the available space long ago.

What about pet food? The pantry provides some pet food. I was told that Mew Haven (another local not-for-profit) provides cat food, but because there is no regular source for dog food, unopened bags of dog food are welcomed.

As I talked with Heather, I became increasingly aware and impressed with the organization and dedication that allows the pantry to operate smoothly and efficiently. (She and others involved in the operations of the panty will be the focus of future articles here and in the Hometown newspaper.)

This piece just scratches the surface of what all of us in our communities need to know about the operation and needs of this food pantry, the people who make it happen, and most of all, the need so many people in our area have as they struggle with food insecurity while frequently working two to three jobs.

In an effort to educate and involve everyone in our distribution area over the coming months and years, a small group of writers will be publishing articles on the pantry’s new website (created by yet another volunteer) and in the Hometown News each month. We are hopeful that many will read these articles, share what they learn, and assist in keeping this resource going for years to come by volunteering, spreading the word, making donations, organizing fundraisers and getting involved in helping to “nourish our community”.

Why not take a few minutes to look around the website and then come back often to keep up with what is going on and what is needed: 

Submitted by Mary Friedel-Hunt

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Help In A Hard Place

My father recently passed away, and for people who wanted to make a charitable donation in his name, we suggested “your local food pantry” as a one of the possibilities. He wrote his own obituary seve

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Just made a donation in Heather's honor. She is very dedicated.

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