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Food pantries working extra hard to feed community during pandemic

Posted at 10:59 PM, Dec 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-06 23:59:57-05

MILWAUKEE  — Most weeknights Quartterri Wilder passes out free meals at the St. Vincent de Paul Meal Program on the corner of 10th and Madison on Milwaukee's south side.

Wilder knows how it feels to go hungry.

"I lived down the block growing up, and I ate here a few times," Wilder said.

Wilder then started working at St. Vincent de Paul, first as security, and now he's a site manager.

On a typical night he serves about 130 people. In October he says they fed more than 4,000.

"Those are meals someone’s not getting if we’re not open here," Wilder said.

Like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the operation at St. Vincent de Paul to adapt. Wilder said they have fewer volunteers and higher demand—he says he sees a lot of new faces coming to pick up food.

"Right now it’s really bad because with jobs people are getting laid off," Wilder said. "So it’s really, they really need help right now."

More and more people are going hungry across the country as a result of the pandemic. According to Feeding America, more than 50 million people in the U.S. face food insecurity. Before the pandemic, the organization reports more than 35 million people struggled with hunger. Now, the organization projects one in six Americans could face some sort of food insecurity in 2020.

Close to 42 percent of Milwaukee County's children received FoodShare benefits in 2019, according to Hunger Task Force. The organization also reports 1 in 11 Wisconsin households faced low or very low food insecurity in 2018.

Addis Larry came to pick up a fresh meal at St. Vincent de Paul Sunday night, and he says going hungry is something you don't forget.

"I used to be homeless 20 years ago, and I was coming here eating," Larry said. "And every now and then I come back and hang out because you can’t forget where you came from. And if you don’t forget, then you think about those still suffering and try to help them."

Larry believes services like St. Vincent de Paul helped save his life. He says getting a meal meant, "living or dying, point blank."

"Everyone got compassion, don’t be ashamed, we all go through something in life," Wilder said. "And never be ashamed of what you're going through at the time, because there is people here to help, St. Vincent is here to help."

The St. Vincent de Paul Meal Program operates at two locations: 931 W. Madison St. every Sunday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., and 2600 N. 2nd St. at the Harambee Kitchen every Monday through Friday at the same time.

Hunger Task Force has a map of all the food resources in and around Milwaukee. Otherwise, call 211 and someone can direct you to help nearest you.

TMJ4 has partnered with Hunger Task Force and Raymond James Financial for the Home 4 the Holidays Virtual Food Drive. You can donate all through December.

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