A Letter from the Executive Director - Holiday 2018
Dear Friends of the FOOD Pantry,
Our food, our table, our piece of the world was the theme of our celebration of 40 years of service to Waukesha County. As the founding of the Pantry coincides with World Hunger Day, we felt it was important to showcase what our community and agency do to help make our ‘piece of the world’ a healthy and vibrant place. You, the foundations, congregations, businesses, and civic groups have given freely to ensure that ‘our table’ has enough food for the thousands of Waukesha County residents who rely on our agency for plentiful, nutritious food.
Eliminating or even reducing world hunger is a daunting task. But, for us, tackling the hunger that exists in this county has been a community-centered process and a successful one. We have made consistent improvements in the ways food is provided and also increased the nutritional value and quantity of food we provide to each household we serve. But, we need to do better. And, with your help, I know that we can.
A 2017 County Health Rankings survey indicated that 31,270 Waukesha County residents reported that they did not have access to a reliable source of food, a number much larger than the 7,856 unduplicated individuals we served during our most recent fiscal year. Surveys conducted at our Pantry with Pantry clients have provided valuable information about access to services such as Pantry hours, types and quantity of food provided, transportation, etc., but these surveys are completed by people who are already accessing our services. Our staff has struggled to find an efficient way to reach people who may need our help but are unable to get to us or who are unaware of the services we offer.
Our “new” facility at 1301 Sentry Drive has been our home now for more than eight years. We now have the experience within this space to recognize that changes, and maintenance, need to be made to improve the efficiency of our operation and to improve the client experience for the people we serve. Maintenance planned for the near future is three energy-efficient furnaces and replacement of aging client service computers. Future plans include expanding our client waiting area so that during busy periods, especially during the colder months, the client service line can be fully indoors. Also in the works is reconfiguring the food selection areas to make better use of the space and provide a more dignified area in which to serve.
It may seem counterintuitive to ask for additional help when the economy has improved for many. While low unemployment numbers are reported, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, led by Waukesha County’s own Susan Dreyfus, shared in a 2018 public policy piece that the financial well-being of adults, families, and communities can only be improved “by focusing on essential building blocks including employment that provides sustainable income, economic mobility, and comprehensive workforce supports.” The piece further reports that recent research by Harvard economist Raj Chetty shows that poor Americans are often left behind, even when the communities they live in benefit from hiring growth.
So, here is my first request: please thoughtfully consider giving a little more to help fund facilities projects such as the HVAC units, the client services areas, or for technology needs. Food will always remain our primary need but we cannot serve in the best way possible without paying attention to our infrastructure.
Secondly, we are looking for ways to connect with some of the 31,270 people struggling with consistent access to food. Do you have ideas for outreach? Perhaps your congregation or a civic organization with which you are involved could be of assistance. Your suggestions about how to improve access to food would be very beneficial. Please contact me with your ideas or to see how you may be able to help.
During this holiday season, I am energized by the idea that we can continue to work together to give our community the greatest gift of all: a healthy, caring community.
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