NEW BERLIN, WI — There is so much to love about the holidays. From decorating the tree to opening gifts to enjoying a festive meal with all the trimmings, Christmas is a time to take stock of all your blessings.
For those in New Berlin feeling the real effects of hunger this Christmas, it may be harder to see the joy in the season. Children will go to bed on Christmas Eve with empty bellies. Families will forgo the traditional holiday meal they can’t afford to make.
Hunger in America is closer to home than you may think. In fact, Waukesha is among places that have been profoundly affected by hunger in 2021.
Before the pandemic, 24,570 residents of Waukesha were considered food insecure, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The continuing economic fallout from the pandemic has swollen that number to 8.4 percent of residents who are on the brink of hunger, where previously it was 6.1 percent.
Nationwide, more than 38 million Americans — including 12 million children — are considered food insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Many families that experience food insecurity don’t qualify for federal nutrition or food assistance programs, so they visit their local food banks to help them through hard times.
As a result, food pantries and food banks have experienced a 55 percent spike in usage through the pandemic, according to the latest Feeding America data, erasing a decade’s worth of progress toward ending hunger in the United States.
Meanwhile, the cost of food is rising. Due to inflation, common food items distributed at food pantries have increased in price anywhere from about 3 percent to 17 percent, according to a National Public Radio report. This means food pantries are feeling a greater financial burden just as more families turn to them for help.
Luckily, the holidays are also a season of giving, which means there’s no better time to give to your local food pantry or food bank.
Wondering what to donate or where to start? Here are the 10 items most food pantries — including those in Waukesha County — need during the holidays:
Kid-friendly items such as cereal bars, pudding cups or fruit snacks
It’s important to note that a food pantry’s most-needed items don’t tend to change by holiday or time of year. Most could use these donated items year-round, according to Feeding America.
Here are some ways people can give in Waukesha County, whether that's to a food bank or in another way: 2021 Patch Holiday Food Drive: How To Give In New Berlin
Here are some other resources to consider if you want to give but aren’t sure where to start:
Find your local food bank
Patch has partnered with Feeding America to help raise awareness on behalf of the millions of Americans facing hunger. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that in 2021, more than 42 million Americans won’t have enough nutritious food to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a Patch social good project; Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations.* Find out how you can donate in your community or find a food pantry near you