It's difficult to describe the incredible forces at work during our current crisis. At times I'm overwhelmed, empowered, frustrated, hopeful, reflective... sometimes all in the same day. The same hour. Through all of this, I get to witness constant examples of our communities working together, rallying to stay connected and to forge new connections. And through it all, people are having thoughtful conversations about meeting the needs of the most vulnerable by addressing discrimination (both intentional and unintentional). At the front lines of these conversations, I see the faces of women. Poor and working class women, women of color, women with disabilities, queer women, rural women, etc, etc, etc. Our voices are being heard and are contributing to immense movement in the sphere of hunger relief. These constant reminders of others' perseverance renews my strength on a daily basis. It is their strength and hard work that is responsible for everything that I've been able to accomplish through Community Hunger Solutions during this pandemic.
Through the hard work of Sherri Tussler of Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee and Natalie Czarkowski of the Hunger Relief Federation, the Farm to Families Box Program through the USDA will be made available to HRF members and our partner organizations! This distribution will begin next week. With the help of Shelly Fortner and Hunger Task Force of La Crosse, Sue Noble of Vernon Economic Development Association, and CHS volunteers, Community Hunger Solutions is opening the Food Enterprise Center in Viroqua for weekly no-contact distribution of these boxes. Our pantry will operate Fridays from 3pm to 6pm beginning Friday, May 29th.
With the additional resource of the boxes, I've begun reaching out to various small communities in Vernon County to offer help in meeting the needs of families in those communities. I reached out to pantries, churches and other community organizations in Boscobel, Wilton, Wauzeka, Reedsburg, Elroy, Fennimore, and Mt. Hope. I was happy to hear that many communities are currently able to meet the needs of their families through generous farms, businesses and individuals in their area. A few were happy for the offer of food and I'm currently working on a plan to connect them with the resources they need. Without the Hunger Relief Federation and the information campaign of the WI Local Food COVID-19 List organized by UW-Madison, these connections and resources wouldn't be available to CHS.
I've been able to renew our support of Parkview Manor and Crestview Apartments, two low-income housing sites in Viroqua and Westby - and am working to add more! Many of the residents of these units are elderly or disabled (or both). Their lack of access to fresh, healthy food has a lot to do with their ability to travel. CHS is happy to bring deliveries of fresh dairy and produce right to their building!
To help Community Hunger Solutions meet the need in our area, I'm reaching out to volunteers with socially distanced opportunities where appropriate. I'm very happy to be able to connect with our volunteers, again! I'm asking volunteers, mostly, to meet deliveries and pantry pick ups and to deliver pantry orders to area outside of CHS' current delivery route. The individuals who are helping with this are key to making our program a success! If you're interested in volunteering, please sign up! I will work to find a job that fits your ability and availability - my goal is that volunteering with Community Hunger Solutions should fit nicely into your schedule so that it's something you will be happy to continue for as long as you'd like!
Finally, CHS is helping implement a campaign that will help pantries connect patrons with P-EBT and other benefit programs, resolve mistakes in benefits, and resolve disputes in eligibility. This will help connect folks directly to money for them to purchase their own food and will reduce the burden on pantries. It will also help State and Federal government get a more accurate picture of food insecurity.
In support of all this work, Bader Philanthropies has just renewed their support of Community Hunger Solutions - our organization will receive $15,000 from Bader to support our program this year! Thank you for your ongoing support of our mission!
In observance of Memorial Day, I'd like to feature a Wisconsin-based Veteran's organization providing homes and other basic resources to Wisconsin Vets. Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin builds homes for Veterans in need and helps connect them with other needed resources. During this pandemic, VOW needs your help to continue providing food for over 400 Vets they serve. You still have time to donate to help feed a Veteran for a month!
I haven't been able to connect with our first featured pantry, yet but I promise it's coming soon! The local community organizations that CHS works with are unique and remarkable and I want to make sure I do a good job of representing each of them. I will bring this feature to you as soon as I can!
As always, thank you to everyone in the CHS network for your generous support of the program! I am constantly fulfilled and empowered by my work in helping connect community members with healthy food.