When the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry opened its doors at 2551 Jackson Street last year, Executive Director Steve Vickman knew their new location and improved food offerings would vastly improve the client experience.
What he didn't expect was such a staggering increase in demand.
In May, the first full month the community pantry was open, 980 families sought assistance â€“ an increase of 108 percent over the same period last year. Even more astounding, the pantry served 544 families the first week in June, exceeding the total served in all of June last year.
Before the community pantry opened, when several small pantries were scattered throughout the city, clients simply accepted a pre-sorted bag of non-perishable food. Now, clients shop the aisles at the community pantry with dignity. Like a traditional grocery store, they personally select fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products to suit their families' unique tastes and preferences.
Although their new highly-visible location and fresh food choices help drive some of the traffic, the majority of the demand has been fueled by the worsening economy. To help meet this need, the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation has awarded over $100,000 to the community pantry for basic food assistance.
"The need is so great, even overwhelming to be honest," Vickman says. "These grants make a huge difference to those struggling with hunger in our community."
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