There are thousands of people in our communities that don’t know where their next meal is coming from. One of the organizations in our community working to change that is St. Joseph Food Program. Based in Menasha, this organization supplies food and other necessities to those in need around the Fox Cities. With Thanksgiving less than a week away, we’re taking a moment to recognize the work this program does every day.
Fighting Hunger for All
For more than 35 years, St. Joseph Food Program has provided necessities to people facing economic hardship in Menasha and beyond. According to the program’s website, more than 400 volunteers work with them during the week to bring supplies to more than 12,000 people in Menasha and its surrounding communities. In turn, countless schools, charities, businesses and individuals donate hundreds of pounds of food to the program.
With this, qualified families that visit St. Joseph will receive 60 pounds of food each week. According to Karen Ziemke, Director of Development and Marketing at St. Joseph Food Program, the average value of each visit is more than $130.
On top of that, St. Joseph Food Program offers more than just packaged foods. They also supply our neighbors with fresh fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on locally grown produce whenever possible. The program also supplies staples like milk, eggs, whole grain products and meat. Ziemke noted that that also included a turkey for Thanksgiving in the week leading up to the holiday.
On top of food, the program provides other necessities to area families as well. Anyone with a baby will tell you that diapers are expensive—hence why they’re a popular gift to give at baby showers. That’s also why St. Joseph Food Program also works with Fox Cities Diaper Bank to give diapers to those who need them every second week of the month. Since babies often use up to 12 diapers per day, this diaper bank provides relief to families that would otherwise spend hundreds of dollars each month.
Additionally, St. Joseph uses its outreach to provide food to other local programs, pantries and schools for free. Ziemke said that this outreach supports 95 other organizations and helps an additional 4,000 lives.
Combating Hunger with Health
St. Joseph Food Program focuses on more than just feeding families. It also emphasizes providing nutritious food to individuals and families struggling with poverty in the Fox Cities.
Among other issues, people in low-income communities are more likely to experience issues with childhood obesity and obesity as adults. Because of this connection, researchers are also aware of a link between poverty and health problems relating to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and a host of other issues. There are many possible links to this, including that processed, nutrient-poor foods are often less expensive than healthier options.
To combat this link between poverty and nutrition-related health problems, Ziemke explained that St. Joseph Food Program uses MyPlate as a guideline when its volunteers give food to the community. Previously known as the Food Pyramid, MyPlate is a model from the USDA to showcase how people can use the five main food groups in healthy eating. With MyPlate as a guideline, St. Joseph has been combating the health issue often associated with poverty. Doing so provides healthier options to our neighbors who normally would not be able to purchase them from week to week, including the fruits and vegetables that make up a large part of the MyPlate model. The program even uses technology like hydroponic systems to grow lettuce so some of these vegetables are fresh.
“St. Joe’s chooses to stay in our lane, which is food,” Ziemke said. “However, we work with other agencies and offer referrals to individuals who may seek other resources that may prove helpful to lift them out of poverty and into self-sufficiency.”
Support from Sunset Hill Stoneware
On top of providing Java Tasters in Lily Pad to support the work St. Joseph Food Program does for our communities, we have also hosted a food drive and took time to volunteer with them as a company in the past. Last year, we donated more than 120 lbs of food to support their work during the holiday season.
During our last food drive, representatives from St. Joseph Food Program told us there’s always a need for food donations. However, they added at the time that their supply of food and non-perishable necessities tend to run lower around March. Since hunger knows no season, we encourage members of our community who are able to donate all year long, but especially during the late winter and early spring.
Anyone who wants to donate non-perishables to St. Joseph Food Program should drop off donations at their site on Opportunity Way in Menasha. They also welcome anyone with fresh produce, milk or meat for donations, in addition to low-sodium canned vegetables and lean meat. St. Joseph Food Program accepts food donations Monday through Friday from 7:30–11:30 a.m., and on Monday evenings from 4:30–7:45 p.m.