The Neighbors' Place sees decline in demand, but says need remains steady

Published: May. 26, 2020 at 6:30 PM CDT
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Right now some families are waiting to find out whether they'll get additional benefits to buy groceries next month.

In the meantime, some food pantries say their numbers are down after an initial spike in March, because of emergency money from the Department of Health Services.

Some people are heading back to work, but The Neighbors’ Place executive director Donna Ambrose says that isn't necessarily a good sign.

"It doesn't mean that the need has gone down. The need is still there, they're just being helped with government resources, which is good, but we know this is short term," said Ambrose.

Those resources took some of the pressure off of The Neighbors' Place, Marathon County’s largest food bank. It is open for drive-up service and will keep those safety measures in place until late September, when the building will reopen with upgrades to the shopping area.

"That additional financial boost helps families to buy more groceries and it helps the local economy too because it helps stimulate the local economy," she said.

But additional help for families may end come June, so they're planning for the line to be even longer. Even though many people may be going back to work, their paycheck might not cover groceries anymore.

"It's not going to look the same. Retailers, hospitality are limiting how many people can be in the building. So their hours and the benefits they enjoyed before may not be the same," Ambrose said.

She encourages people to keep visiting The Neighbors’ Place as they start to get back on their feet.

“It’s less stress on the household so you can pay other essential bills,” she said.

The pantry is trying to anticipate various scenarios that could unfold in the coming months. A family's need may be similar to now if kids are not in school next fall.

"They may not buy as much, because they know their child is being fed at school during the day. So there's so many things that we have to consider here to try to be proactive as best we can," she said.

Newschannel 7’s “Singing for their Supper” campaign raised $104,714 for the pantry. Ambrose said it will help them keep up with the evolving need after important fundraisers were cancelled.

“Because of this campaign and these wonderful gifts, we’re able to be proactive and plan, because we know this is very short term,” she said. “We don’t even know for the month of June if these monies are going to continue.”

Ambrose is in close contact with DHS, and she says the state plans to decide soon whether to extend those benefits through June.

For more information about The Neighbors’ Place,