New data shows growing need for food pantries in Dane County - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

New data shows growing need for food pantries in Dane County

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MADISON (WKOW)—Summer is a tough time for area food pantry and newly released data from Feeding America shows there is a growing need for those services in Dane County.

Food insecurity Refers to USDA measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

In Wisconsin, the food insecure population decreased from 13% in 2011 to 12.6% in 2012. But in Dane County, it's on the rise, up from 11.2% in 2011 to 11.6% in 2012. Percentage-wise it's not a huge jump, but it amounts to hundreds of thousands of meals and it would cost $27 million a year to meet those food needs.

“We've been at our capacity and there's been a demand there for us to increase,” said Pat Gallagher with The River Food Pantry.

And the data shows children are one of the hardest hit demographics. In Dane County 17.1% or roughly 18,000 kids are food insecure. Food banks like Second Harvest Foodbank use these numbers to determine the best way to tackle hunger.

“Right now we have a significant effort doing studies with children and what we've done this year is, due to some success that we've had, is we're actually granting money to different organizations that will increase the number of kids that are fed during the summers,” said Dan Stein with Second Harvest.

For organizations like Second Harvest and The River Food Pantry, summer is a particularly challenging time.

“What we see in the summer is a two-fold problem,” Stein said. “First of all, it's usually the lowest time for donations of food, so we're as empty as we'll be all year. But on the other side of the coin, when children are out of school, they relied on free or reduced price meals in school.”

Second Harvest will hand out grants next week to help publicize where kids can go for summer feeding programs. Meanwhile the River Food Pantry, which typically helps about 600 families a week, will expand its services.

“Starting next week, we add another pantry session so we can serve another 100 families,” Gallagher said. “So the need is really, really there and that includes children.”

Both organizations say monetary donations are especially vital in the summer and they can stretch $1 in to 3 meals.

For details on helping out the River Food Pantry click here and for details on assisting Second Harvest Foodbank click here.

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