As inflation continues to soar, more local households are utilizing The River Food Pantry for the first time. By the end of July, over 1,000 new households had already registered for The River’s services this year. This marks a 45% increase in new registrations from the previous year.
“With already limited budgets, our low-income neighbors are bearing the brunt of rising grocery, gas, and housing prices. Although many of the people we serve have a job, it’s just not enough to cover these essential expenses,” said Rhonda Adams, Executive Director of The River. “The River is doing its best to keep up with the growing need for nutritional assistance by providing free groceries and meals through curbside pickup, delivery, online ordering, mobile meals, and redistribution community partnerships.”
Recently, The River conducted a survey to better understand how inflation has been affecting our community and how the pantry can help. Out of over 250 customers surveyed, 90% said the cost of food is the most significant barrier to food access for their household.
“We are working now, my wife and me, but we have five people in our family,” said a customer of The River. “We go to the supermarket and maybe spend $200 or $300. It’s very expensive. We receive very good help here at The River.”
The survey results also revealed that rising gas prices are making it more difficult for the majority of The River’s customers to pay for food, housing, and other bills.
“The struggle is real with rising gas prices. Two customers recently ran out of gas while waiting for curbside groceries,” Adams said. “Our customers live all over Dane County and several have told us they are having to make the impossible choice of paying to drive to work or to feed their families.”
To help meet the increased need for food, The River added a new pantry session, called Pantry xPress, on Saturdays from 11am–2pm that offers a condensed selection of curbside groceries and to-go meals. Pantry xPress does not require registration or count towards existing customers’ weekly visits at The River to increase convenience and accessibility for the community.
This summer, The River also expanded its mobile meals program, Munch, to serve 15 low-income neighborhoods on Madison’s North, East, and now South sides. Since school let out, The River has been out with the Munch van six days a week delivering free nutritious meals to children and adults facing food insecurity.
Like its customers, the pantry is struggling with higher food and fuel costs, as well as supply chain issues.
“We purchase food and other essentials that we do not receive as donations. Even at wholesale prices, it’s become more difficult to get some items that our community needs to eat and live healthily,” Adams said. “The amount we’re spending on gas for our food recovery vehicles to transport food donations has skyrocketed too.”
To sustain operations, donations and volunteers are always needed and appreciated. Please visit riverfoodpantry.org/donate to support The River.