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South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf sees influx in families after Verso closure

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 5:24 PM CDT
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) - Food pantries have seen an increase of families in need as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge everyone, but an increase in people means more difficulties for pantries to be able to keep up with demand.

Cars lined up throughout the parking lot at South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf (SWEPS) on Friday, Oct. 16 to receive some food to get their families through the week and the need for food and volunteers is greater now than ever.

“We’ve had a small increase of numbers, but of those numbers, a vast majority of them are families which require a lot more food than just a household of one or two,” SWEPS Pantry Operations Manager Dale Davis said.

The amount of people stopping by the SWEPS food shelf in Wisconsin Rapids has seen a 15% uptick since before the pandemic, and there’s no sight of slowing down anytime soon.

“Keeping our inventory up to the point where we can have enough food on hand for all the new families coming in has been a challenge,” Davis said.

He said the increase in families has largely to do with more mouths to feed while kids are at home instead of school as well as the verso paper mill ceasing operations this past summer laying off hundreds, leaving families stuck in a rut.

“They were not prepared for a long term lay off and they were not set financially to weather that so they get as far as they can on their own and families help them out, but eventually gets to the point where the burden is just too great,” Davis said.

Many of the donors that SWEPS relies on to stay operational throughout the year including the boy scouts and the United States Post Office canceled in-person food drives due to COVID-19, so now they’re relying on the community to donate and volunteer.

“It’s an easy, fun thing to do so it’s not a lot of hard work and it’s just rewarding,” SWEPS Volunteer Marcia Wright said.

“We’re pretty busy in here, but it’s a neat thing to do to help people out,” SWEPS Volunteer Judy Seegert said.

Canned goods are one of the biggest needs at the pantry, and if you are interested in donating or would like to volunteer, be sure to visit SWEPS’s website.

Copyright 2020 WSAW. All rights reserved.

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