Neighbors need your help
The number of people using local food pantry has skyrocketed
The Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) community resource hub here in Mount Horeb is seeing firsthand the pain that rising prices for essentials such as food, gas and rent is having on local families.
The number of people served monthly by the Food Closet has doubled since January, from 401 to 884 people in July. Some of those people visited more than once a month, so NHN also counts unduplicated visits. For those, the number of unique individuals served rose from 199 in January to 286 in July.
“In July alone, we added new households with 22 new people,’’ said NHN food coordinator Ann Szalkowski. “So we’re seeing many more families and those families are shopping with us more times per month.”
July also marked another landmark for the organization: it is the first month since NHN launched in March 2020 that the Food Closet gave out more food than it took in.
“Second Harvest estimates that every 1.2 pounds of food is the equivalent of one meal,’’ said Lee Ann Dillis, the other NHN food coordinator. “So in July we provided 12,773 pounds of food that created 10,644 meals for our neighbors in need.”
Meanwhile, visits to the adjacent Clothing Closet, which provides free clothing, are also rising. The Clothing Closet served 209 people in July and provided 43 students with back-to-school supplies.
All of this has created stress on an all-volunteer organization, which could use more help in a number of areas.
First, it needs more volunteers, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. The food closet is open for shopping Fridays from 9-10:30 a.m. and from 3-5:30 p.m. On Saturdays both the Food Closet and Clothing Closet are open from 10-11:30 a.m. The greatest need is for food distribution leaders at the Food Closet and shopping assistants at the Clothing Closet. Spanish language speakers are also needed.
Board member Janna Hansen said that currently, food coordinators work more than 20 on-site hours a week, much of it preparing for and assisting food distribution.
“In all honesty, it takes away from many other administrative tasks involved with overseeing the operations of the Food Closet,’’ Hansen said. “Volunteering with Neighbors Helping Neighbors is rewarding, and easy. I often share with people, all you need is a smile, and a passion to help others.”
One of those passionate volunteers is Mike McNall, who most often volunteers doing “door drops” for people who are unable to come to the pantry. He enjoys spending time with people, sometimes putting their groceries away and checking in with them on how they are doing.
“With Neighbors Helping Neighbors, you’re putting the help right into the hands of the people who need it,’’ McNall said. “It’s all volunteer and all local. I really believe Neighbors Helping Neighbors is doing more for people in need in our community than any other group.”
Even if the Friday and Saturday hours don’t work for you, NHN has more than 150 volunteer opportunities ranging from clothes sorting to social media to cleaning. The average shift is 1-1/2 to 2 hours max. High school students can earn Silver Cord credit for volunteering. If you can help, call HNH at 608-437-6114 or email email@example.com.Training is provided for all roles.
Secondly, the shelves in the food storage room are starting to look a little bare. See the list below for the most-needed food and personal care items. You can also help Neighbors Helping Neighbors, by making a monetary donation that can be used to purchase needed items to stock our shelves.
If you would like to make a donation, you can mail a check to: Neighbors Helping Neighbors, PO BOX 196, Mount Horeb, WI 53572 or donate online thru paypal at: https://mthorebneighbors.org/donate
NHN currently receives food donations from Second Harvest, Brix Cider, Kwik Trip, Miller and Sons Grocery, Hook’s Cheese, Outdoor Addiction, Squashington Farms, Mt Horeb Community Gardens, Milio’s Subs and the Community Action Coalition’s The Emergency Food Assistance Program (CAC-TEFAP). Churches, and individuals also donate, often through food drives. If you want to donate food, contact NHN to make sure someone will be there to receive it.
A third issue is that funding for emergency food programs created during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic are ending, meaning some of the food provided for free by Second Harvest will soon have to be purchased. Dillis estimates NHN would have to spend $30,000 a year for the food that is currently donated by Second Harvest.
“Our mission is made possible only through the generosity of our community and their gifts of time, talent and finances,’’ Dillis said. “We are fortunate to live in a community where people are generous with their gifts.”
MOST NEEDED ITEMS:
Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Closet is experiencing unprecedented needs for a growing number of families who need help with food. When donating, please check the expiration date as NHN can’t distribute food that is expired. Also, NHN currently has a glut of macaroni and cheese and tomato soup, so please don’t donate those items. Here are the current needs:
Corn Beef Hash
Cereal (any kind)
Sugar (white and brown)
Cake mixes and frosting
Muffin or Bread Mixes
Dry Soup Mixes
When you’re going to drop off food, please call HNH at 608-437-6114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure someone will be there to accept your donation.