New registrations at the Oshkosh Community Pantry doubled over past year

One in three people in Winnebago County faces food insecurity
More and more people live with food insecurity
Published: Jul. 13, 2023 at 5:11 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Food insecurity is on the rise in Winnebago County, according to the Oshkosh Community Pantry.

“We will take any and all donations, every little bit helps,” said Ryan Rasmussen, Oshkosh Community Pantry Executive Director.

“We have a lot of our shelves that are looking a little bare,” Rasmussen explained.

Darol C. Lee is one of hundreds of people who come to the pantry each month for assistance. He is in the process of moving from Milwaukee to Oshkosh.

“It’s been kind of hard you know trying to find work and then you know at the same time trying to get yourself together,” he explained.

Lee has a lot of pain in his swollen hands and knees and says he’s waiting to receive his social security checks.

“It’s real hard when you don’t have more money and you’re not able to work, and you’re limited by your body, you know it fights against you,” he added.

But the pantry, which is attached to the Saint Vincent de Paul Thrift and Furniture Store, functions as a free grocery store with 130 to 180 families visiting every week.

“It’s just like shopping at any other grocery store, you can come to peruse the aisles, we have all of the different categories of food like any other grocery store between produce, meat, center store dry goods,” Rasmussen pointed out.

To register, proof of address and a personal ID are necessary. The pantry’s website states that people from the areas of Oshkosh, Omro, Winneconne, Waukau, Pickett, Eureka, Buttes des Morts, Rush Lake, and Fisk are served.

“We have a wonderful produce section in here, that a lot of pantries don’t have access to and so the fact that we offer an unlimited amount of produce for our guests is a really big selling feature for us,” Rasmussen explained.

“This place has really been helping me,” Lee mentioned.

But the pantry still lacks enough food for people in need and is asking for both food and monetary donations.

“Dry goods are obviously the easiest things, so any of those non-perishable items, the mac n’ cheeses, the soups, the canned fruits, the canned vegetables, those are really, really important to us,” Rasmussen said.

Various government assistance programs that increased funding during the Pandemic are now sizing back to pre-Covid numbers. This is forcing some people to make very difficult decisions.

“It’s the worst of two evils sometimes, you’ve gotta look at like ‘hey I need pain pills or I got to pay this script or in the end, I gotta get something to eat’ and this program really helps out,” said Lee.

“So generally folks that are more middle income, or middle class, those are the folks that are really being affected right now as they’re having to think about where they can spend their dollars,” Rasmussen stated.

While monetary and food donations are accepted, alternatively, self-grown fruits and vegetables are also welcomed.