The white SUV idling at the front of the line had reportedly been there since 9:30 a.m., approximately four hours before the drive through line would begin creeping forward. By 12:15 p.m., the perimeter of the Marshall High School parking lot was lined with various vehicles, many with their trunks or back hatches open in preparation for the monthly Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin Mobile Food Pantry that stops in Marshall to open up at 1:30 p.m. There were also more than a dozen vehicles in an overflow area waiting to be dismissed into the line.
A sign at the front of the Friday, April 24 line reminded people of the new rule: only one package of food per vehicle. Those needing or desiring more food would have to come back at 3 p.m.
Kristopher Tazelaar, Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin’s director of marketing and communications, said the decision to limit the number of food boxes per vehicle is based on the increase in demand for the mobile food pantry.
“The reality is we want to make sure everyone gets something from here,” he said. “These are some tough decisions we have to make.”
According to the Second Harvest website, the mobile pantry is seeing a higher than normal demand for services and has needed to make adjustments in real time to ensure every vehicle arriving at the pantry leaves with some food.
This was the first time for the Marshall site to see the restrictions, which had gone into effect March 30, three days after the previous mobile food pantry stop.
Tazelaar said in the instance where representatives from two households arrive together in a vehicle, the food pantry is still limiting the number of donation bundles to one. During the most recent Marshall stop, clients asking about a second bundle of pantry items were directed to come back at 3 p.m. to see if anything remained.
“There are some hard feelings when we have to turn away people,” Tazelaar said.
The April 24 donations included a 20 to 25-lb. box of shelf-stabled dry goods, a box of fresh produce and other food needed to be refrigerated plus two 1/2 gallon jugs of milk per vehicle. Tazelaar said there were 250 food bundles at the April stop; in March, there were 220 and in February, when Second Harvest set up in Holy Trinity Church, the pantry brought enough food for 190 clients.
Clients also had the option of obtaining an extra gallon of milk courtesy of the Marshall High School FFA. Advisor Paula Bakken said the organization, which often volunteers at the monthly pantry, decided to use some of its yearly budget to help not only those who needed food assistance, but local farmers as well. Bakken along with two former FFA members raided the local Kwik Trip and bought 200 gallons of milk to be donated.
Not only has the mobile pantry needed to change the amount of food it provides clients due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the process has been amended as well. In the past, clients would enter Holy Trinity Lutheran Church where a free meal would be provided by Marshall United Methodist Church. Each person would receive a number that would be called when they are allowed to enter the pantry area to shop for food. With the requirement for social distancing, the food must now be pre-boxed and is placed in the trunk or backseat of the client’s vehicle by a pantry volunteer when going through a makeshift drive-through. If the trunk or backseat is inaccessible, the vehicle parks away from the drive-through aisle and the boxes are brought to them so clients can pack the food in their vehicles themselves.
More information on Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin’s mobile pantry can be found online at www.secondharvestmadison.org.