The parking lot is full of various vehicles and inside of the building is even fuller. People wait in line until it’s their turn to walk through the makeshift aisles, volunteers placing items in shopping carts which are filled with bags and boxes holding groceries.
It’s less than a week until Thanksgiving and the scene is reminiscent of how retail grocery stores will likely look Nov. 27 as people pick up last minute menu items.
Unlike a grocery store, there was no need to pay at a register. It was the Second Harvest’s Mobile Food Pantry’s stop at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Marshall where the organization stops the fourth Friday of the month.
Lori Peppard is Second Harvest’s service area representative for Dane County. She said the three-month average for the Marshall site is 215 households, which Peppard estimates at being roughly 1,000 people served. The total number of households has seen an increase from 2018, when the average was 170. She said based on the new average, Second Harvest may soon need to move to a larger site.
“Holy Trinity has been wonderful, but as you can see, we’re pretty full here,” Peppard said.
During the Nov. 22 stop, the clients were provided roaster chickens donated by United HealthCare.
“It’s an incredible donation that they’ve given because it’s protein,” Peppard said. “Hopefully, folks can use that to start a great Thanksgiving meal or meal over the holidays and then we’ve got a lot of produce here, bread, canned goods.”
United HealthCare community relations specialist Kristin Robert said the company donated a total of 1,200 frozen turkeys that will be donated at several Second Harvest Mobile Food Pantry sites throughout southwest Wisconsin. There were 215 chickens brought to Marshall, Robert said, with the hope there would be one for each household using the pantry.
“Hunger is a social determinant of health so as a local HMO we want to do something about it because food and nutrition go hand-in-hand with overall health,” she said.
According to Peppard, there is more need for food pantries around the holidays, especially because children are at home and not being provided lunch at school. Plus, people may have guests coming to their homes to celebrate the holidays.
Second Harvest does not ask anyone utilizing the mobile pantry for their name or other personal information. Peppard said the only request is to provide the total number of people in the household and how many children and seniors are living there. She said the anonymity is one of the reasons people like to use the service.
While Second Harvest is based out of Madison, there is plenty of local support to help the program.
Peppard praised the local volunteers who assist with the mobile pantry, including members of the Marshall FFA who provide help during alternate months and the Marshall United Methodist Church that provides lunch to people picking up food.
“There’s just a lot of great collaborations,” she said.