In these final months of 2020, there’s shared urgency in hunger and potential business ruin.

Late in the spring, agencies that feed Wisconsin families in need warned of a coming wave of pandemic-related food insecurity. By fall, they said, food pantry use would likely spike across the state.

Feeding America, a national network of food banks, projected that the number of food insecure people served by Second Harvest Food Bank, in a 16-county area that includes Dane County, would rise about 60 percent in 2020.

That is being borne out, it appears. Second Harvest Food Bank reports that between March and September, it distributed about 55 percent more food than in the same period in 2019.

Feeding America is expected to release updated food pantry user data later this fall.

Similar to early warnings about hunger, there have been rumblings for months that small business closures could spike in the fourth quarter of 2020.

In our small communities, business owners are friends, neighbors and family members. Their success is deeply intertwined with the overall health of our communities.

There is something we can do.

Six weeks from now, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we will mark Small Business Saturday.

Normally, we’d encourage local residents to save that traditional shopping date. We’d encourage them to buy holiday gifts in-person that Saturday, enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Small Business Saturday will be critical this year, and we’ll keep talking it up. But for some of our local businesses, six weeks from now might be too late.

Coronavirus cases are again exploding in Wisconsin. Already-strained businesses have been hit by a new state order that limits the number of shoppers and diners to only 25 percent of their building’s capacity. Some business might not make it to November.

If there ever was a time to buy local, it’s this month.

Before you haul your Halloween pumpkins to the curb, finish your Christmas shopping locally. Stock up on food and drink gift certificates. Buy clothing, home goods and a winter’s supply of sidewalk salt and birdseed from the hardware store. Make spring garden purchases now, if possible.

Let’s show our shops and restaurants that their continued presence matters, by kicking the Small Business Saturday concept forward by six weeks.

Buy local. Buy now. Don’t wait.

The predicted wave of food insecurity is here. With a collective effort, perhaps we can head off a local business closure tsunami.

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