What Should I Expect on My First Food Pantry Visit? | The River Food Pantry
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The River Food Pantry is Here to Serve You and Your Family

Many factors can lead to food insecurity: changes in employment, family situations, unexpected expenses and other unforeseen circumstances. Today, more Americans must supplement their food resources for the very first time. Being in this vulnerable position can seem overwhelming, but food pantries can make sure you and your family don’t go hungry.

The first thing to know is that food pantries are the facilities where you’ll go to pick up food. Pantries are different from food banks, which gather, store and inventory food donations, then deliver them to the soup kitchens, homeless shelters and food pantries in their communities.

We hope these suggestions will help clarify how to use a food pantry.

  • Research the pantries in your area. Most of them have a limit on how often you can visit, but there are no limits on how many pantries you can utilize. Supplies may vary from pantry to pantry, and after a few visits you’ll learn where to go for particular items. It’s a good idea to visit the food pantry first to see what’s available and think about what will go together to create a meal.
  • Make the grocery store your second stop to fill in any gaps on your list.
  • Check each food pantry’s website to find out hours and if you’ll need to bring proof of your identity.
  • Normally, you’d be allowed to enter a food pantry and do your own shopping, but in response to the current pandemic, food pantries have created drive throughs where patrons can pick up pre-packaged boxes of supplies.
  • You won’t need to make an appointment, but try to arrive early in order to avoid a long wait. To maintain social distance, you will stay in your car and pantry staff or volunteers will load the food into your trunk for you.

There is no shame in visiting a food pantry. Its sole purpose is to feed you and your family so your funds can go toward housing, transportation and other necessities. The River Food Pantry is serious about feeding Dane County. We distribute curbside groceries 4 times a week. Each household takes home an average of 120 pounds of food (both perishable and non-perishable) and supplies per visit. We also provide to-go meals for each member of your household. If you are unable to visit The River, we now offer free deliveries of groceries and meals as well. Find out more about our services here.


As South Central Wisconsin’s busiest food pantry, The River Food Pantry serves over 1,000 households each week. Available to anyone in Dane County, our services include free groceries for curbside pickup or delivery, freshly prepared to-go meals, and mobile lunches for children and adults in low-income neighborhoods. More than a food pantry, we build community by offering opportunities to serve, give and collaborate. We also partner with local organizations to minimize food waste and to improve access to reliable sources of food. Since opening in 2006, our vision is to achieve a fully nourished community. Learn more about us here.

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