History

Since our humble beginnings in a volunteer’s basement in 1978, The Food Pantry of Waukesha County has worked to eliminate hunger throughout the community.

It was a simple, new and nuanced idea—collect and store food to distribute to those who could not afford it themselves—and the founders of the Food Pantry took on the challenge. We were the vanguard of the food pantry movement in the United States, which was in its infancy in the 1970s and was mostly confined to large urban areas. Our small coalition of Waukesha community activists decided to start one of our own to help anyone, for any reason, who didn’t have enough food to eat.

Our workers always pushed themselves to serve as many people as possible, with the promise that no one would be turned away. That meant we needed help. Local schools, organizations, churches and businesses, as well as private donors, all made huge, much needed contributions from the very beginning. Within one year, we served over 1,200 clients and were off and running.

Over the next 10 years, we increased our operations exponentially. We became an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3), moved locations twice, hired our first director, and, incredibly, started serving around 300 families a week.

With this success, we could start providing items like household, hygiene and baby products, which are not covered by government aid. Over the years, we supported and built strong partnerships throughout the community and are now involved in a number of services all over the county as a result.

Today, we’re settled in our third and largest location and serve over 65,000 clients every year. It’s been a long, rewarding road to establishing the Food Pantry as a vital service to all of Waukesha County.

Local historian and author Ellen Langill, PhD. wrote an engaging, detailed history of The Food Pantry for our 25th Anniversary.