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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Second Harvest Food Bank

Courtesy of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley via Flickr

Dane County budget proposal includes almost $11 million for local food pantries

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi unveiled almost $11 million in funding for food banks and emergency food networks last week in the county’s 2024 budget as part of the county’s efforts to address food insecurity.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced almost $11 million in funding last week to address food insecurity in the county by expanding aid for food banks and emergency food networks.

Parisi announced the funding on Oct. 2 as part of the $937 million 2024 Dane County budget. The county budget represents an increase of $103 million from the 2023 budget.

The additional funding follows an increase in demand for area food banks after additional benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — implemented as part of the response to the COVID pandemic — expired this spring. 

Parisi highlighted the importance of addressing local food insecurity following the pandemic in a statement on Oct. 2. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic really showed the importance of life’s basics and highlighted how challenging it is for those less fortunate in our community to access them,” Parisi said. “This budget keeps our local growers feeding this community and positions our invaluably important pantry network for continued increases in service demands they’ve experienced these past several years.”

Around $6 million in funding will go to continue Dane County’s Farm to Foodbank program. The program was originally established in April 2020 to alleviate hunger caused by the pandemic and is administered by Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.

Farm to Foodbank partners with 55 local growers in southwestern Wisconsin to provide fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy and eggs to community members experiencing food insecurity. The program served 3.8 million meals in 2022, according to Second Harvest.

An additional $4 million will go directly to Second Harvest and its partners to fund their efforts to address food insecurity in southern Wisconsin. 

A $500,000 chunk of the 2024 budget proposal is allocated to the Badger Prairie Needs Network to provide the funds to expand a food storage warehouse.

The Badger Prairie Needs Network operates as a “grocery-style food pantry” and offers biweekly Saturday Community Meals. The organization distributed over 1.7 million pounds of food and served 37,000 people in 2022, according to its website.

Another $425,000 in funding will go toward Madison’s Extended Hands Pantry. Extended Hands primarily serves immigrants and refugees and serves between 280 and 300 families each week. 

Extended Hands Pantry co-founder Jenny Czerkas told The Daily Cardinal her organization has experienced an 80% increase in demand from a year ago, primarily due to inflation and more immigrants coming to Madison.

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“The funding our food pantry will receive will go towards purchasing equipment to support the increases in demand: refrigeration, warehouse upgrades of pallet racking, a forklift, and a new refrigerated truck,” Czerkas said.

The budget proposal will be brought to the Dane County Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks, and the final county budget is set to be approved in November.

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