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Pantries of Plenty: Continuing Efforts to Increase Food Security

Last year around this time, we reported numbers that showed the most recent statistics for food insecurity in Dane County was 11.2% for all persons, 15.5% for children, and that 14.4% of the county population participated in Food Share. This year, we found the numbers had not changed much. That means our quest to increase access to food within our community continues, and there are lots of ways that you and your Co-op can make a difference.

Return of the POP Community Fund Drive
Over the winter holidays last year we launched our first full Pantries of Plenty Community Fund Drive (POP Drive), which raised $4,090 for the four food pantries that are also supported by our pantry donation shelves throughout the year: Goodman Community Center, the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, the Lussier Community Education Center and Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM). We’re pleased to announce that the POP Drive is back! All through November and December, customers have the option to purchase $5, $10, or $25 POP Cards that will be added to a pool of funds we will divide among the four pantries evenly when the drive is over. Funding will be provided to the pantries in Co-op gift cards, to be used to stock the pantries with more than just non-perishable food. Here’s what our four partner pantries had to say about last year’s drive:

“The POP Drive is critical to the success of the Fritz Food Pantry. We utilize the funds raised to regularly purchase food items for folks with special dietary needs. Many families don’t have a grocery budget that allows for vegan and vegetarian products or low sodium and gluten-free items so this is huge for us and our pantry guests.” -Jon Lica, Goodman Community Center Food Pantry Coordinator

“Your contribution helps us ensure that we can keep staple pantry items stocked, and it also allows us the flexibility to get healthier, fresher items distributed to families. We have so many pantry users who appreciate the unique and healthy items that we get from Willy Street Co-op. Your support helps us gain access to more healthful food that can nourish families in our community. Families feel empowered to choose foods that fit with their dietary needs and preferences.” -Cristina Johnson, Lussier Community Education Center Volunteer and Employment Programs Coordinator

“Each year, MOM is able to provide food pantry assistance to over 4,000 people who live on the west side of Madison and in Middleton and Cross Plains. Through the POP Drive, the generosity of Willy Street Co-op Owners ensures that no one who comes to MOM ever leaves without the items they need to cook balanced healthy meals, including fresh produce, dairy and protein.  MOM’s unique model allows our guests to take the food that the need and to come back as often as they need, ending hunger for anyone who comes to MOM for assistance. MOM purchases food from a variety of places in order to fill in the gaps. With a combination of donations of food from individuals and businesses and financial donations with which to purchase food, we are able to distribute over a million pounds of food every year. We thank you for your continued support!” -Ellen Carlson, Middleton Outreach Ministry Community Relations Manager
“As a direct service to the community, the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center food pantry deeply needs and appreciates support contributions from the Willy Street Co-op’s POP Drive. The Center’s food pantry is not supported by any operating contributions from traditional funding sources including government, United Way or Community Shares. Yet, the pantry, in the service of over a hundred households bi-weekly, incurs operating costs. Individual contributions and support from needed endeavors like the POP Drive make it possible for the pantry to operate and provide emergency food assistance to these families. We send along heartfelt thanks to the Co-op and its Owners for renewing the POP Drive for 2015!” -Gary Kallas, Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center Executive Director

As we set it up last year, POP Cards will be available to either make a simple donation or to make a donation as a gift in honor of someone else. You can find POP Cards at the registers, and at the Owner Resources Areas at our stores. Consider giving the gift of good food to those in our community who need it most this holiday season.

Anonymous Donor
Did you know that there are some people who give in our community completely under the radar? It’s true, for some it really is all about the giving. In fact, we have one Owner who chooses annually to anonymously purchase a whole lot of nonperishable goods for the Goodman Community Center Fritz Food Pantry Thanksgiving. This year, thanks to this person’s generosity, Goodman will be receiving 2600 units of canned and boxed goods available at the Co-op. To whoever you are, we join Goodman Community Center in appreciating your ongoing contribution. Thank you!

FY15 Food Donations by the Pound
Last fiscal year we started doing a much better job of recording the pounds of food our Co-op collectively donates to the community, and we hope to keep even better track this year. Every bit adds up! We give to the food pantries on a rotating basis, and the amount entirely depends on what is available when it is that pantry’s turn to receive the goods. That means you can make the difference! The Goodman Community Center and Wil-Mar Neighborhood Centers are serviced via the donation shelves at Willy East, Lussier Community Education Center and Middleton Outreach Ministry are serviced via the donation shelves at Willy West. In addition to your generous contributions to the four neighborhood pantries that benefit from our in-store donation shelves, we also give some of our lossed-out inventory to Second Harvest and the River Food Pantry when it is available. Here’s how we did from 6/30/2014-6/28/2015:

  • Goodman Community Center: 1888 pounds
  • Lussier Community Education Center: 797 pounds
  • Middleton Outreach Ministry: 900 pounds
  • The River Food Pantry: 60 pounds plus five cases of deli clamshells
  • Second Harvest: 2432 pounds plus one pallet of assorted dry goods
  • Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center: 841 pounds

That’s over 6,918 pounds of food you gave to those who needed it most last year, or over 130 pounds on average per week! Amazing. Thank you for your continued support!

We Accept FoodShare; Ask Us About the Access Discount
The statistics for Dane County show that over one in ten people within the last few years have faced food insecurity. That means it’s highly likely that either you or someone you know lacks the assurance that they will have adequate food to lead healthy and active lives each and every day. If you think you or someone else you know may be eligible for FoodShare, the Federal QUEST Card program that helps people with limited money purchase the food they need, please consider contacting Second Harvest’s FoodShare Helpline at 1-877-366-3635 or go online at to find out about the qualifications and how to enroll. Your Co-op accepts FoodShare, and we also held our first FoodShare registration sessions with Second Harvest in our Community Rooms, something we hope to continue to offer to the community at other times throughout the year.

We also offer the Access Discount Program to those Owners who face a financial need. With the Access Discount Program you can shop with a 10% discount to buy food and other products at the Co-op. You can also invest your Co-op Equity (the FairShare Contract) at a slower rate: $4 every year for an Individual, until you pay a total of $56 OR $7 every year for a Household (two adults living in the same house or apartment), until you pay a total of $91. Access Discount users receive one coupon for a free class every year at enrollment, and are asked to renew enrollment every year during the month of March. There are a number of ways to qualify, and you may visit our website or the Customer Service desk at either store to learn more. If you or someone you know would benefit from this program, please spread the word!

The Right To Food
According to the National Economic Social Rights Initiative, food is a human right, guaranteeing freedom from hunger via availability, accessibility, and sustainability for all people from all cultures. Dane County passed a resolution in 2012 recognizing access to food as a human right. We can all do our part to implement and protect this right, and we are proud to be part of this cooperative community who is already doing so much. We look forward to seeing what we can do together during this year’s POP Drive and beyond. Thank you!

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