Joanna Cervantes and Mark Thompson

Joanna Cervantes, executive director of Sunshine Place (left), and Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry Board President Mark Thompson (right) encourage anyone who’d like to donate to #ActofKindnessSP as a way of helping Sunshine Place and the Food Pantry at the same time. Donations can be made at or send to #ActofKindnessSP, PO Box 307, Sun Prairie WI, 53590.

You may recall images from almost a year ago, furloughed federal employees using food panties in mass as a result of the partial government shut down. Those images put an exclamation point on the sobering reality that almost 80% of workers live paycheck to paycheck.

While most rely on a steady income, life sometimes throws a curve ball. When that curve ball impacts the pocketbook, families often look for help from their local food pantry.

For the past 28 years, the Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry has been there to provide food, personal care items and perhaps most importantly hope to those at a time in their lives when they need it the most. When it started, the pantry was assisting approximately 60 families a month.

Today, that average is closer to 500 families a month and over the course of a year, the pantry provides in excess of half a million pounds of food to those facing hardship.

A closer look at how the food pantry operates tells a truly remarkable and inspiring story about volunteerism, generosity and a strong partner in the fight against hunger, Sunshine Place.

The pantry is a 100% volunteer organization, over 300 volunteers procure food, stock shelves and guide clients through the pantry every day of the week except Sunday.

Maintaining the inventory of food and personal care items for families in need is challenging. A quick glance at year to date numbers give the reader an idea as to where all this inventory comes from.

Food rescue and recovery from local stores account for 34%. Another 24% comes from the Community Action Coalition (government commodities). Second Harvest Food Bank, which includes a monthly mobile pantry makes up another 21%. 14% of the product is donated by the community and the Pantry purchases approximately 7% of the food it distributes.

Donations are the lifeblood of the Food Pantry. Mark Thompson, Sun Prairie Food Pantry President describes the donor base as “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

“Almost every day of the year,” Thompson said, “someone is dropping off a donation or making a cash contribution to the pantry, which helps offset the approximate $120,000 in annual expenses.”

In addition to the volunteers and donors, Sunshine Place plays a critically important role in the fight against hunger.

Sunshine Place is a separate non-profit and rents out much of the building at 18 Rickel Road to the Food Pantry. While landlord may be the legal term, partnership is a better descriptor for the relationship. Together, these two non-profits make up a formidable partnership to provide a one-stop-shop for those facing difficulty in Sun Prairie.

Last year at this time, the two non-profits joined forces to host a demolition party to kick off the plans to expand on to the newly acquired space where a duplex once existed.

Since that time, a small group of volunteers from the pantry and Sunshine Place have quietly raised $725,000 towards the goal of $1.3 million. The campaign known as #ActofKindnessSP hopes to break ground in the spring on the previously demolished site.

“It could be a missed paycheck, a car accident or bad news from the doctor, we’re all one event away from needing help,” said Joanna Cervantes, Executive Director of Sunshine Place.

Thompson and Cervantes encourage anyone who’d like to help to donate to #ActofKindnessSP as a way of helping Sunshine Place and the Food Pantry at the same time.

Donations can be made by visiting or sending a contribution to #ActofKindnessSP, Post Office Box 307, Sun Prairie WI, 53590.

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