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As the only food bank in west central Wisconsin, Feed My People distributes 7.3 million pounds a year to local agencies. We are a cost effective way to provide pantries, community tables, and shelters enough food so thousands of people can be helped each month.

More Than Mangoes: Pop-Up Pantries Help Break the Cycle of Hungry Summers

On a hot and humid late afternoon last August, nine-year-old Sam,* and his mom, Alyssa,* walked to the Longfellow Elementary parking lot. It had been converted into a temporary Pop-Up Pantry filled with piles of fresh produce. Friendly faces were ready to help load up groceries for everyone who came by in need of extra food.

Discovering this Pop-Up Pantry was a relief for Alyssa. During the school year, she relied on the fact that Sam and his sister received free and reduced lunch every week day and meal staples and snacks over the weekend through the Weekend Kids' Meals program. However, now that this consistent nutrition had dropped out of the picture because the school year was over, it meant finances were especially tight. Not only that, but soon after staff met them, Sam excitedly shared that his mom was going to have a baby.

Alyssa had quit her job because the cost of child care was too high to justify working over the summer. Even though her husband continued in a full time job, it was still often a struggle to put food on the table. The location of this pantry now meant she could juggle her daughter's weekly appointment with receiving much welcomed groceries at a nearby, familiar location.

Feed My People began Pop-Up Pantries in 2016 to directly distribute to those in need of food during a time of year that is typically hard on families, and it also coincides with a surplus of fresh produce from the summer harvest season. This year Feed My People is expanding the program to more sites in Eau Claire, along with locations in Chippewa Falls and Fairchild.

When Sam and Alyssa returned the following week, and the week after that, staff and volunteers came to know them well.

 "There's mangoes this time, want to try some?" asked Tami Syverson, Field Services Specialist at Feed My People. Sam replied, "Maybe? I don't know what they taste like! Will I like them?"

"Why don't you take some home, try it, and when you come back next week you can tell me what you thought of them!" Tami said.

By the time the last Pop-Up Pantry of the season came around, Sam spontaneously gave Tami a hug and said how much he loved trying all of the different fruits and vegetables, including the mangoes. He was energetic and happy, exactly how a nine-year-old boy enjoying his summer should be - free from the distraction of worrying about where his next meal would come from.

*Name changed for privacy

1 https://hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/understand-food-insecurity/