(608) 442-8815



Would you like to help out? Check out how easy it is to serve at The River. Find out more.

“I have always been the type of person that hates to ask for help. With the struggles I have had trying to find a job, I had to lower my pride and walk into the door at The River. The volunteers and helpers were so kind to me and explained what I needed to do. I ended up with more groceries than I ever imagined I would receive. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting food back on my table!”


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The River is Dane County's busiest food pantry and in 2015 welcomed 30,605 family visits.

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What is The River Food Pantry?

The River Food Pantry is Dane County’s busiest food pantry, offering free groceries, meals, and clothing to anyone who comes for help. Located in a warehouse just off Northport Drive and Packers Avenue, The River is surrounded by low-income neighborhoods and subsidized senior housing—exactly where we’re needed the most. We also provide a mobile lunch program for children and teens in low income neighborhoods surrounding the food pantry. Nutritious packed lunches are distributed in the neighborhoods on weekends and other non-school days.

More than just meals, The River provides a warm and welcoming family atmosphere where everyone is treated with respect, encouraged to find the support they need, and given the opportunity to share what they can with others.

The River feeds more than 650 Dane County families per week, sharing 48 thousand pounds of food every seven days, or about 2 million pounds of food each year. Over $3.6 million in goods and services are distributed annually. We also serve 550+ hot meals each week and currently distribute 300 mobile packed lunches on each non-school day.

In 2016, The River received 31,400 family visits. Approximately 39% of those served by The River are children and 20% are seniors. In 2016, the first year of the mobile lunch program, The River provided just over 10,000 packed lunches to children and teens.

How do we deliver these goods and services?

Our Mission

Our mission is to bring a message of mercy and hope to those in need by providing nutritional basics and encouragement, and to be a unifying, servant-hearted, community-building expression of Jesus Christ in Madison.

Our History

Before The River Food Pantry opened its doors in 2006, its founders Andy and Jenny Czerkas, along with countless volunteers, partnered and organized monthly dinners at the Northport and Packer communities along Northport Drive. As the Czerkas' got to know the residents personally and became familiar with their needs, they also established a small emergency food pantry onsite. Over time, it became apparent more had to be done for Madison's north side and Dane County.

The Czerkases rented the warehouse on Darwin Road in 2005 and remodeled it to include a large kitchen, bathroom, office space, children's area, and storage areas. After five months and 3,500 volunteer hours of construction, the pantry opened to the public in March, 2006.

Local businesses and individuals generously provided The River Food Pantry with donations of building materials, shelving, kitchen appliances, and startup finances. Much of the physical content of the pantry is "Recycled Madison." The serving counters are remodeled nurse's stations from the former Methodist/Meriter Hospital. The doors and windows are also from the hospital. The pantry shelving is from the former Kmart and Cub West Food Store.  The new pantry was outfitted with new and much improved electrical service. The electrical components were also donated as was all the skilled installation work.

Our Purpose

We believe that God has a message of mercy and hope for everyone. The vision for The River Food Pantry is simple. We want to help families and individuals who are having a difficult time making ends meet, and we do so by providing them basic foodstuffs, supplies, free meals, and free clothing. Moreover, we want to treat those whom we serve with dignity and respect and revitalize them through hope, encouragement, and by providing information about available community services.

The food pantry is a wonderful opportunity for people from diverse church and non-church backgrounds to come together in service to the community. It also represents an opportunity to offer a positive, servant-hearted expression of the Church in our city. Our core team and volunteers include members from multiple churches and denominations as well as from the community at large. We encourage participants from outside the church community to come work with us to make the city of Madison an even better place to live.

Click here for our printable brochure

Current Needs

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
- Matthew 25:35-36

The River Food Pantry
2201 Darwin Rd. | Madison, WI 53704
Phone: (608) 442-8815

In accordance with Federal Law and U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave, SW , Washington D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 or (202) 720-6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

In addition the State of Wisconsin prohibits discrimination in the delivery of services on all the above bases, as well as sexual orientation and religion. 

The River Food Pantry complies with all Federal, State and local laws regarding nondiscrimination and is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons.