As the COVID pandemic continues to affect the economy, the Tomah Health Community Foundation is helping people struggling with hunger in Monroe County.
Foundation officials donated $3,000 to the Second Harvest Foodbank’s FoodShare Wisconsin program during a socially distanced presentation at Tomah Health Oct. 21.
“One of the key initiatives of the Tomah Health Community Foundation is supporting nonprofits that make a difference in the lives of families and children and Second Harvest Foodbank meets that by providing good quality meals to children and families,” Foundation president Peter Reichardt said of the donation.
Formerly known as food stamps, Second Harvest Foodbank’s FoodShare program allows eligible residents to receive a debit card called the QUEST Card that is loaded with FoodShare benefits that can be used at most grocery stores and many Farmers' Markets. The QUEST Card can also be used to participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program or to pay for Meals on Wheels.
“This $3,000 will go a long way to help make contacts with people in Monroe County,” said Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin FoodShare outreach specialist Brian Larson. “We really appreciate the Tomah Health Foundation. It’s fantastic.”
Reichardt said due to the generosity of the Tomah community, which supports the Foundation, the organization is able to help groups like Second Harvest. “Through our fundraising efforts we are able to put it back into the community and that is important not only for the people who help to support us but also the Foundation to distribute those funds directly back and impact our community.” The foundation has donated to Second Harvest the last eight years.
Larson said the FoodShare program continues to play a huge role especially as the pandemic continues. “There have been a lot of people who were either laid off or lost their job or were not able to work,” Larson said.
He referred to a story of an area family where the husband and wife both lost their job and learned that they were eligible to take part in the FoodShare program. “It helped get them through until their jobs came back, so it’s helpful all the time but especially during the pandemic - it’s really beneficial.”
Larson said while the FoodShare program helps ensure potentially eligible participants learn how to obtain benefits, it also meets community needs. “Not only does it benefit the family that has the QUEST Card, it will benefit the community because every $5.00 spent on the QUEST Card generates $9.00 back to the community,” Larson explained. “The card also takes pressure off the local food pantries, like Tomah’s Neighbor of Neighbor, which gets extremely busy, and they might not have to go to the food pantry as often because they are using the Quest Card in the grocery stores.”
From July 2020 through June 2021, Second Harvest assisted with the submission of 49 FoodShare Wisconsin applications in Monroe County, which created $78,648 in FoodShare benefits for residents to purchase food at local grocers and generated 27,693 meals for food insecure Monroe County residents. The program also created $121,118 in economic impact in Monroe County. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that every $5 spent in FoodShare benefits generates nearly $9 in local economic activity.
Second Harvest reports that over 125,000 residents in southwestern Wisconsin were already struggling with hunger before COVID-19 with most relying on low-wage jobs as their primary source of income. Last year, 100,000 residents were struggling.
Second Harvest serves residents in Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Lafayette, Monroe, Richland, Rock, Sauk and Vernon counties.
To learn more about the program, CLICK HERE or call the FoodShare Help Line at 1-877-366-3635.