The River Food Pantry (Food & Nutrition)

  • Food & Nutrition
  • United States

The River Food Pantry in Madison, WI is an important part of the social safety net of Dane County, where 13.5% of families live at or below poverty accordingly to the University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty and their 2015 report.  

While in Dane County 15.4% of families earn less than $35,000, in Madison that number jumps to 26.1%, meaning that many families live above the poverty line but earn less than a living wage. For those that fall within this gap, it is hard to obtain the assistance needed to make ends meet.

If The River only relied on donated food to stock the pantry shelves, there wouldn’t be enough to provide for everyone, which is why the pantry also allocates funds to purchase nutritional food in bulk. With this aim in mind, the Monsanto Fund has donated $12,500 to The River in 2016, allowing it to consistently stock healthy food and staple items, which and has ensured that families in need have access to a healthy and varied diet.

Katie’s family has been one of many families that have received a helping hand from the food pantry. While some families find themselves in a temporary emergency, others will be affected by more permanent circumstances, such as Katie and her husband, who have been struggling to feed their four children for many years now. Before shopping at The River, Katie's husband used to scrap metal on the weekends to raise enough money for groceries, while Katie went to buy groceries with a calculator to ensure that she didn’t go overbudget. "I would plan my grocery shopping and visit multiple stores," Katie recalled. "I knew exactly what store had the best prices for items we needed."

However, last year the price of metal dropped drastically and they could no longer afford food for their children. "We went from making $100 for groceries to barely $30," Katie said. "It's impossible to feed a family of six on that type of budget. We were struggling and needed help." The River offered the perfect solution to her problem and has since erased her worries of not being able to provide food to her children. "We're still struggling but at least I know there will be food on the table for my kids every night," Katie said. "Without The River, I'm not sure what my children would have to eat. It will get better for our family, but for right now we're able to keep our head above water with the help from The River Food Pantry."

Thanks to generous donations including the 2016 Monsanto Fund Grant, that pantry is able to provide not only nutritional assistance but also hope for the future and encouragement to those struggling to make ends meet like Katie.

The River Food Pantry is a community-supported organization distributing free groceries, hot meals, mobile lunches, clothing and household goods. In 2016, The River distributed over 2.3 million pounds of food from over 31,000 household visits, served 27,060 meals and gave away $826,988 worth of clothing, furniture and household items. The River also launched a new mobile lunch program called Madison Urban Nutritional Children's Hotspot (MUNCH). With the help of volunteers, lunches are prepared and packed at The River Food Pantry's kitchen then distributed to children and teens directly at their neighborhood on weekends and on non-school days to bridge the gap when school is not in session. In 2016, MUNCH distributed 10,400 packed lunches.