Mary Ann Hamill, the Food Pantry president, said that this time of year sees the highest spike in contributions from the community.
“Right now is a time of very heavy donation,” she said, gesturing at fully stocked shelves.
In fact, she said Friday, there is more than meets the eye.
"We just got a big truckload in a single donation," she said. "It's all in a store room right now because there isn't space for it all on the shelves. We'll bring it out as needed.
"A parishoner bought it all at Sendik's – he must have spent $800."
Hamill explained that the manager of Sendik's Food Market, 8616 W. North Ave., often contacts the pantry when he has unsold foodstuffs left over from store specials, and he offers the stock at a steep discount, allowing donation dollars to go further.
"Unfortunately," Hamill said, "cash donations are down, and that's critical for our ongoing operations. So we hope that will pick up. Our clients rely on us all year, not just at the holidays."
Need for nutrition is constant
About 140 families visit the food pantry each month, Hamill said, and that number stays fairly consistent year-round. This year marks the 28th year that the pantry has been serving Wauwatosa families.
Each family is allowed to pick out its own food based on individual needs. Families with one to three members are given one brown paper bag to fill, and families with four or more are given two bags.
In addition, each family gets a separate protein bag. With the help of a Food Pantry volunteer, families are allowed to pick out what kind of protein they would like to take home.
“We have eggs, ground beef, tuna fish, chicken,” said Hamill. “These families are doing the shopping; we’re just here to help them choose.”
There is an intake procedure for families who wish to use the food pantry. Photo IDs are required, and there is a short interview process determining whether the heads of household are employed, on food share or if they have any other needs such as energy assistance.
The Wauwatosa Community Food Pantry serves a large area. Residents of four ZIP codes (53213, 53222, 53225 and 53226) and members of 19 Wauwatosa churches are eligible to use the pantry’s services.
There is enough food to provide for all those who need it right now, Hamill said, but after the holiday season, the shelves are depleted.
The food on those shelves comes from a number of different places. On Mondays, bread is donated by Panera Bread, and on Saturdays, it comes from Breadsmith. The Food Pantry also purchases 20 food packages a month from SHARE Warehouse Community Kitchen, located on 131st and Silver Spring Drive.
Fresh produce comes from the Hunger Task Force garden, as well as local farms.
Cash and food donations are accepted at the pantry during its hours of operation: Mondays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
For information on how to help, contact Mary Ann Hamill at 414-258-4320.