Every third Friday morning of the month, the gym at the St. Mary’s School building in Platteville fills.
Trucks come in with fresh, canned and frozen food. About 20 volunteers help set up the food so more than 120 people can take food from the monthly Second Harvest Food Pantry.
The Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin started mobile food pantries in 2003. St. Mary’s has hosted the Platteville food pantry since 2009.
“Working with the mobile food pantry meets the physical needs of people of the area and allows volunteers to put their faith into action by cooperating with the corporal work of mercy to ‘feed the hungry,’” said Diane Drefcinski, St. Mary’s community life coordinator and religious education coordinator.
Drefcinski took over for Linda Schmidt, who coordinated the food pantry until May and “put together a great crew of volunteers who regularly come every month to help package and hand out food,” said Drefcinski.
The program has no special requirements or income restrictions to participate.
Some participants begin gathering around 7 a.m. with containers to take home food. The tractor–trailer with food arrives around 9:30 a.m., and food distribution begins at 10 a.m. Volunteers help move participants’ food to their vehicles.
“We are usually sent food for about 120 households,” said Drefcinski. “The challenge is to try and divide the food so that each household is able to be offered every item. Sometimes we run out of something early. For example we ran out of cabbage and sweet corn early [in August]. When that happens we try to offer them extra of something else like potatoes, rice or ice cream.”
While people start lining up as early as 7 a.m., “that’s a long wait, and there’s no need to be there” before 9 a.m., said Drefcinski. For late arrivals, “we try to make sure anybody who’s looking for something, even if we’re packing up, we try to find it. We don’t turn anybody away unless we’re all packed up.”
The last food pantry, Sept. 18, served 127 families totaling 364 people, including 123 children and 58 senior citizens. The previous food pantry, Aug. 21, served 131 families totaling 340 people, including 100 children and 69 senior citizens.
September food pantry offerings included frozen chicken, potatoes, stuffing, rice, pasta, cabbage, canned and seasonal vegetables, fresh and frozen bread, and cereal.
One month earlier, the August food pantry offerings included eggs, pork patties, hard salami, cheese spread, potatoes, rice, beans, cabbage, cucumbers, corn on the cob, canned corn and peas, bread, ice cream and yogurt.
Anything not taken is packed up and sent to the next food pantry. “There’s always food; it’s just items that run out,” said Drefcinski.
A few volunteers come in Thursday to help set up. Friday volunteers to unload the trailer and help take food to participants’ vehicles include St. Mary’s members and UW–Platteville students.
The Second Harvest Mobile Food Pantry stops in Darlington the first Friday of the month, Patch Grove the second Tuesday of the month, Boscobel the third Tuesday of the month, Richland Center the third Thursday of the month, Platteville the third Friday of the month, Highland the fourth Monday of the month, and Gays Mills the fourth Wednesday of the month.
More information about Second Harvest can be found at www.secondharvestmadison.org.