Joint food pantry meeting, Aug. 26

Jo Doyle of the Stoughton United Methodist Food Pantry and Mike Heger of the Stoughton Food Pantry listen to fellow members at the first joint meeting between the organizations on Monday, Aug. 26.

The city’s two food pantries hope to collaborate to feed the city.

During the first joint pantry meeting Monday, Aug. 26, members of the Stoughton Food Pantry and the Stoughton United Methodist Church Food Pantry discussed challenges both pantries face, better ways to collaborate and better understanding of each other’s operations.

“Both pantries work together on food drives but we’ve never had a joint meeting to work the rough spots out,” SFP board member Linda Lane told the Hub after the meeting.

Those challenges include volunteers not having duties when they arrive at food drives — leaving them to wait around – and a lack of communication between the organizations.

The success of the initiative could pay big dividends for the two pantries that serve more than 15,000 pounds of food each month between them. They share three large food drives throughout the year: the Boy Scouts Drive, the Girl Scouts Drive and the Post Office Drive.

SFP board member Mike Heger said, on average, the Boy Scouts Drive raises 3,000 pounds of food, the Girls Scouts raises 2,000 pounds of food and the post office drive raises 10,000.

Previously, members of the SFP took the bulk of planning for those events, but SUMCFP coordinator Jeanne Schwass-Long suggested one member from each pantry be on the planning committee to evenly divide duties like promotion to the community, supplying snacks and recruiting volunteers.

“It would be helpful to both (pantries),” Schwass-Long said.

Schwass-Long said the biggest challenges for SUMCFP, which served 1,493 clients from January to July 31 and receives roughly 5,871 pounds of food per month, were dealing with disruptive clients, running short on essentials, accommodating all clients on busy days and attracting more clients in the evening.

She and other SUMCFP members suggested more communication among the pantries, specifically about safety and health issues to provide a safe environment for both clients and volunteers. Schwass-Long mentioned having to call the cops on more than one occasion and they recently had to call an ambulance.

Heger agreed being able to communicate about clients when it pertains to the safety of the volunteers is important. He said legally, the SFP is not able to release client information, but he agreed to follow-up with Community Action Coalition, which is the communication filter for the state and federal guidelines through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

Heger said the biggest challenges at SFP are space and volunteers. Lane said the pantry serves roughly 307 clients per month and between 10,000-11,000 pounds of food.

“It is a challenge trying to find some abled body people to help with large orders,” Heger said. “Five thousand pounds (of food) to put away is a lot.”

In addition to ways the organizations could better collaborate, those in attendance got to know the operations of each food pantry and what challenges they face.

The SFP also mentioned how they get no direct funds from the city but only space and help with bookkeeping.

“(SUMCFP) seemed a bit surprised to learn that,” Lane told the Hub after the meeting.

Members from both pantries said they hope to have another joint meeting and continue along a collaborative path. Though no future meeting date was set, finding a way to better collaborate on the three largest drives was a big accomplishment, those at the meeting agreed.

“That was worth the whole meeting,” Lane said.

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