GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Local food pantries have helped fight food insecurity in their communities throughout the pandemic. But now, with some of the pandemic benefits that have helped take the pressure off of pantries soon coming to an end, local pantries are stocking up to serve more people.
With benefits such as the utility moratorium and emergency SNAP benefits ending on April 15th, they say they're preparing for a surge.
“As the pandemic has gone on and as more benefits have been released I think the strain on local pantries has lessened a little bit but it’s still there," said Andy Zoerb, the coordinator of Ruby's Pantry and Denmark Community Cupboard. "Now just even within these last couple months we’re seeing that pull again as we’re distributing more food to people who need it.”
Ruby's Pantry distributes groceries once a month and Denmark Community Cupboard delivers groceries once a month to residents of the Denmark School District. Zoerb says that while the pantry has been collecting food in preparation for rising demand as benefits end, food inflation has made it difficult to keep the pantry stocked.
"Because we don't receive government commodities with this pantry, we actually purchase other things through local food stores here," Zoerb said. "One of the hardest ones, ground beef, we continue to see those prices, or dairy, those things continue to go haywire.”
Craig Robbins, the executive director of Paul's Pantry in Green Bay, says the pantry has already begun to see more people in need and is preparing for the amount of visitors to return to pre-pandemic levels. The pantry has been stocking up on items with especially high price tags by buying some items in bulk.
“Products like hamburger we’ve purchased six months ago, chicken, we’ve just bought a whole semi-load of chicken," Robbins said.
Local pantries are relying on the support of their communities through local food drives and donations as they prepare to meet the growing need.
"We just continue collecting food, working on fundraising as well, events like give BIG Green Bay were a huge boost for our services and the different programs we provide,” Zoerb said.
“We’re thankful to our community for being so generous and helping us to be prepared for whatever comes next,” Robbins said.