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Pantries of Plenty: Making a Difference in Food Security

In June, The Cap Times wrote about a report from Public Health Madison & Dane County that shows food insecurity “is a day-to-day reality for nearly 12 percent of all people and 17.5 percent of children in Dane County.” This is up from 2013 reports we cited in the past two years from the Dane County Food Council (showing 11.2 percent food insecurity for all persons, and 15.5 percent for children). In the USDA’s recently released report Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, their study shows that while food insecurity seems to have increased in Dane County, overall national food insecurity has declined, from 14.9 percent in 2011, to 12.7 percent in 2015. 

What is Food Security?

According to the USDA, “food security means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” The HungerCare Coalition, a program of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin claims that “families may be considered food insecure if they experience anxiety about having enough food in the house; have to purchase lower quality, lower variety, or less desirable food; [or] have to eat less or less often.” When the USDA screens for food security reporting, they consider a number of things; for example: whether a household worries about food running out before being able to buy more, whether the food a household can buy will last until they have enough money to buy more, whether the household can afford to have balanced meals, whether adults are cutting the size of or skipping meals because there was not enough money for food, and whether individuals skipped eating when hungry or lost weight because there wasn’t enough food. Depending on how households respond to the screening questions, the UDSA then classifies how food secure the households are. A household is Food Secure if they report

  • High food security: no food access issues or limitations
  • Marginal food security: one or two indications, typically anxiety about food sufficiency or quantity, but little to no indication of changes in diet

A household is Food Insecure if they report:

  • Low food security: a reduction of diet quality, variety, or desirability, but little to no indication of changes in diet
  • Very low food security: multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake

Food insecurity and hunger are not necessarily one and the same: security is based on the household’s “economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food,” while hunger is a condition or consequence of food insecurity. Basically, when you think about food security, consider: can you or your neighbors or the community afford to buy enough food and keep it coming to the table? Can you or your neighbors or your community get to a food source and transport enough food home easily? Can you or your neighbors or the community store your food and prepare it properly? These are the kinds of things that agencies, nonprofits, and companies like your Co-op are thinking about when we embark on efforts to make our community more food secure. The good news: you can and already are helping to promote food security when you shop the Co-op. 

Reducing Food Insecurity In Time of Need: Over $30K Raised for Louisiana Flood Relief

Food security is often reduced in times of natural disaster, which is difficult for everyone affected, and especially difficult in regions where food security is already a concern. According to the World Food Programme, extreme weather events and climate change “have the potential to destroy crops, critical infrastructure, and key community assets, therefore deteriorating livelihoods and exacerbating poverty.” Everything from food availability (crop production quality and quantity), access (pricing and availability), utilization (storage and usage), and stability (fluctuations in availability, access and utilization) are impacted when disaster strikes or strikes frequently in the same region. That is why we asked for your support to help the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank recover and continue to provide foods and services in their community when Louisiana was hit hard by major rainfall and flooding this summer. Thanks to your generosity, they received $31,104 from Co-op customers to help make people in the area more food secure.

POP Community Fund Drive Enters Year 3

It’s the holiday season, and so it’s time to roll out our Pantries of Plenty Community Fund Drive. You can help prevent hunger in our community by purchasing a $5, $10, or $25 donation card at any Co-op store. 100 percent of funds donated will be divided evenly and sent to the food pantries our Co-op serves: Goodman Community Center and Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center at Willy East; Lussier Community Education Center and Middleton Outreach Ministry at West; and recently added to the program, Bread of Life Food Pantry and The River Food Pantry at North. Donation cards make a great pay-it-forward gift for friends and family during the holidays. Just give the card to your cashier to have your donation applied to your grocery receipt. 

How Does POP Help Local Pantries?

Funding will be provided to the pantries in Co-op gift cards which will be used to stock the pantries with staples they consistently use, foods to accommodate special diets, more foods than just non-perishable food, or whatever else they may really need. Last year generous customers donated a total of $8,990 to our (at the time four) food pantry partners. Here is what some of our ongoing and new local food pantries in the program have to say about POP.

“The great thing about this gift from Willy Street Co-op is that we’re able to purchase items that meet special dietary needs of the people who use our food pantry. Lots of people who use our pantry have allergies and physician-prescribed dietary restrictions so it’s really nice to accommodate those needs. It’d be really difficult for us to afford that without the POP Drive.” —Jon Lica, Goodman Community Center

“As the sole employee of the Bread of Life Food Pantry, I feel truly blessed to be part of the holiday POP campaign. While we are fortunate to be able to get a wide variety of items from Second Harvest, there are some items we never seem to have enough of. The main items we will purchase with our POP funds are: a variety of beef and chicken soups, pasta sauce, instant oatmeal packets, pancake mix, and canned pineapple. Thank you for including us!” —Sue Gould, Bread of Life Food Pantry

“The MOM Food Pantry used the POP funds this past year for an exciting collaboration that is helping families who want to eat healthy learn how to cook with new foods. ...MOM used the POP funds to purchase healthy shelf-stable foods to go in the recipe bags...  One client said, ‘I never thought of putting canned pumpkin in pasta!  My kids thought it was delicious.’ POP funds allowus to create exciting new programs to give clients enhanced opportunities and easier access to the resources that they need.” –Ellen Carlson, Middleton Outreach Ministry  

Fiscal Year 2016 Food Donations by the Pound

The six pantries listed above are supported year-round by the food donation shelves at each store. The pantries rotate bi-weekly picking up the non-perishable items you leave on the shelves. Bread of Life Pantry and The River Food Pantry are newcomers as part of opening Willy North. Here’s what you donated last year at Willy East and Willy West:


  • Goodman Community Center: 2,239 lb.
  • Lussier Community Education Center: 2,159 lb.
  • Middleton Outreach Ministry: 2,028 lb.
  • Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center: 1,639 lb.


We also made some donations throughout FY 2016 to area pantries when we had a surplus of food. A collective 971 additional pounds of food was donated to Luke House, the River Food Pantry and Second Harvest Food Bank. That means that in total, we recorded donating just about 9,035 pounds of food to the community. 

What’s Needed on the Donation Shelf?

Giving via the donation shelf is easy! Make a purchase or bring in a non-perishable grocery product you would like to put on the shelf at your convenience.  Here is a collective summary of items the pantries we work with seek for their customers:


  • Baby formula
  • Cake, muffin, or pancake mixes
  • Canned fruit or vegetables
  • Canned pasta 
  • Canned proteins such as beans, salmon, sardines
  • Canned soups and broths
  • Canned tomatoes 
  • Cereal
  • Chips
  • Condiments
  • Convenience meals, pasta, or rice packages
  • Cooking oil—any variety
  • Cotton balls
  • Deodorant
  • Diapers
  • Dried beans
  • Dried fruit
  • Ethnic foods
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Gluten-free items
  • Granola
  • Herbs and spices
  • Juices, non-dairy drinks, and low-sugar beverages
  • Laundry detergent
  • Lotion
  • Nuts
  • Oatmeal
  • Paper/plastic products
  • Pasta
  • Pasta and pizza sauces
  • Peanut butter
  • Ramen
  • Rice
  • Sanitizer wipes
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shaving supplies
  • Snack bars
  • Soap
  • Sugar
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Vegan items
  • Vitamins
  • Whole grains


Word of Mouth: Tell Neighbors About Access, Double Dollars, FoodShare and WIC

Do you know someone who may be facing food insecurity? Tell them about our services. Make sure they know that your Co-op (perhaps it’s their Co-op too) has the Access Discount Program that offers 10% off all groceries to those Owners who demonstrate low income, and that Ownership under the Access Discount Program can be invested at as little as $4 per year for Individuals and $7 per year for Households. Let them know that we not only accept FoodShare (QUEST), but that we also work with Second Harvest to help register people for FoodShare at the store. We’re also just beginning to pilot Double Dollars Tuesdays at the Co-op, a nutrition incentive program that allows FoodShare participants to extend their purchasing power with produce coupons (see last month’s Reader for details). WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is also a new offering at Willy North, made available by the request of our Owners on the north side. All of these programs are here to help make sure that our Owners and our customers from the community can get the foods they need to feel more secure feeding themselves and their families. Make sure your neighbors know we’re here for you and here for them.

Food Security Into the Future

Your Co-op is not done coming up with creative ways to support food security and we are currently in conversations with a variety of public and private organizations to develop more programming. Some of that programming is being considered thanks to the input of Owners like you. We’ll keep you posted as we have enough new information to share. In the meantime, we hope that you and your neighbors have a plentiful Thanksgiving season, and we are, as always, extremely grateful for all the generosity you continue to show as a cooperative to your community both at home and beyond. 

Just Coffee Co-opSheila Landsverk, Realtor Wild Child

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