Hitting the road to feed the hungry

Family Sharing expands its reach with mobile food pantry that travels the county
Ozaukee Press staff

People going hungry in Ozaukee County? The two women at the helm of Family Sharing, Ozaukee County’s longest -running food pantry, say it happens all the time.

Julie Hoover, executive director, and Julie Pahnke, community outreach manager, meet people in need every day. The food pantry is open two to three days per week and provides staples such as fresh produce, eggs, meat, dairy products and more.

And now, thanks to their new mobile food pantry, they are serving those in need  not only at their building at 1002 Overland Ct. in Grafton but in “all four corners of the community,” Hoover said.

Last March, the team devised three new initiatives to expand the nonprofit organization’s reach — the mobile food pantry, a weekly backpack initiative for children and food delivery for seniors.

“If you live in Waubeka or Belgium, you can’t just run over to Family Sharing,” Hoover said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What are we doing to innovate?’”

The mobile pantry was born. A refrigerated box truck loaded with food and run by volunteers goes out to specific locations.

“In the past five months, we have provided groceries to 603 households,” Hoover said.

To qualify for services, Hoover said Family Sharing goes by the U.S. Government poverty standards.

“We use them as a benchmark,” she said. “We don’t want people to rule themselves out because they make over that. We want to have a conversation about what’s going on.”

According to United Way of Wisconsin, across the state, 34% of households struggle to afford the basic necessities of housing, child care, health care, food and transportation.

“In every community there is a poverty, but in Ozaukee County everything is more expensive,” Hoover said. “People are struggling, and if they are just making it and something goes awry, it is so easy to fall behind.

“Those are the people we serve.”

Family Sharing has been serving the county since the 1970s. Their partners include local businesses and individuals who support their mission.

These donors, as well as ongoing food drives, help keep the pantry shelves stocked.

Family Sharing also runs a resale marketplace where shoppers can find adult and children’s clothing, shoes, household items, sporting goods, toys, books, smaller furniture and more. All proceeds from the store go directly toward food pantry operations.

The store is there for clients and the general public.

“People might come for new school clothes or supplies, personal care items for a baby, things like that,” Pahnke said.

The resale store is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is popular, according to Pahnke.

“Tuesday is senior, student and veteran discount day,” she said. “It’s packed.” The clients who use the food pantry fit into many possible categories – two-parent families, 20-somethings, seniors, veterans, single parents and more, Hoover said.

“Since 2001, we have provided over 7 million pounds of food to Ozaukee County residents,” she said. “And 52% of those  (people)  live north of Grafton.

The backpack program began with two school districts, Hoover said, and will expand across the county in fall.

“The backpack program is for kids who rely on school for their breakfast and lunch during the week,” she said. “By providing food for the weekend, we ensure that they have their food needs met. This ties in perfectly with our mission to alleviate hunger in Ozaukee County with dignity and compassion.”

Family Sharing also provides school supplies, including backpacks, to client families with children in  school.

“It’s not food,” Hoover said, “but it’s a way to assist families who are struggling.”

The senior food delivery program started with a conversation, Hoover said.

“We went in and met with residents (in low income senior housing) and registered them for our service,” she said. “They get two bags of groceries every other week which include milk, eggs, produce, bread and non-perishables.”

“The word we hear over and over is blessed from the seniors,” she said.

“They appreciate the help. Many struggle with physical challenges or don’t have transportation, so being able to get the food delivered to them is a big help. Several call us when they still have groceries from the last delivery to let us know that they want to skip the next delivery so their food can go to others who need it, which is so thoughtful.”

Family Sharing offers contactless food pick ups at their facility.

“Prepandemic, we were actually open more hours in the pantry but there were longer waits,” Hoover said. “What we found is that making appointments is better for our clients because they are in and out quickly.”

For more information on scheduling a food pickup, run a food drive or donate cash or food, visit the Family Sharing website at: www.familysharingozaukee.org or call 377-0634.

In August and September, the mobile food pantry will be in:

n Belgium (Luxemburg American Cultural Center) from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and Waubeka Fire Station from 3 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 4 and 18 and Sept. 1, 15, and 29.

n Concordia University Parking Lot J from 1 to 2 p.m. and the Mequon Piggly Wiggly (west end of parking lot) from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 11 and 25 and Sept. 8 and 22.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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