Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Notes September 26, 2019
Feed My People, our area's local food bank, serves some of the poorest counties in west central Wisconsin including Eau Claire County, which has been ranked as the 2nd poorest county in Wisconsin. A tremendous number of families and individuals have benefited from the staff's commitment to address hunger. The majority of the food items we provide to the people we serve come from Feed My People. Below is a letter from Feed My People that we'd like to share with you:
Thank you to the Chippewa Valley Street Ministry for reaching out to those living in challenging circumstances in our community. We at Feed My People are grateful to be able to share in your mission and supply food to those struggling with hunger. Pastor Mike was just out to visit us today to pick up some fresh produce and asked that I share a little bit about how we help our neighbors in need. Our mission is to end hunger in west central Wisconsin by building partnerships and acting as a key link between food suppliers and hunger-relief programs. Currently, on an annual basis the Food Bank reaches close to 70,000 food insecure individuals including 25,000 children. We provide them with nearly 7,500,000 pounds of food by partnering with 200+ food pantries and other hunger relief programs. Of those people we serve over 20,000 are in Eau Claire County.
There is a real need for the hunger relief our partners provide within in our 14 county service area. In Eau Claire County, according to United Way’s 2018 Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Report, 28% of residents (on top of the 14% in poverty) cannot afford a basic household budget of food, housing, childcare, transportation and healthcare. 1 in 5 of our children face food insecurity in their daily lives and the elderly are the fastest growing population visiting food pantries. Healthy food can often be prohibitively expensive making it difficult for individuals in low-income households to afford balanced, healthy food putting family members at high risk of poor health. Often limited food budgets result in dollars spent to purchase as much food as possible without taking into account nutritional value. When parents have to find the cheapest food available for their family, it’s less likely to be fresh and more likely to be high in calories so that it will be filling for their children.
Feed My People is committed to partnering with local hunger relief agencies and developing innovative solutions for increasing access to healthy food options for low-income families. At our warehouse in Eau Claire we package nearly 2,000 Weekend Kids Meals weekly during the school year for kids in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire to take home over the weekend when school meals are not available. Our volunteers also package healthy meal kits for pantries, emergency food boxes for elderly, veterans and homeless individuals. Over the past two years we have started to provide pop-up pantries where we drive food to high need neighborhoods and unload the food for those in need. Each year we are challenging ourselves to do better because there are so many struggling right here in our community and we are called to help. Thank you to the Chippewa Valley Street Ministry for letting us partner with you. Your work with the poor goes beyond food and provides those visiting with you compassion, understanding, and friends they can count on.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal September 6, 2019
Serving tonight were Chuck, Larry, Pastor Mike, Marj, Cat, Brent, Lynn and myself. We served about 50, this is becoming the average which is concerning for various reasons: the change in weather that is just around the corner, the shortage of housing, the amount of individuals with mental illness and a host of other various situations.
Lynn and I spoke with a woman that struggles with both mental and physical challenges. She shared some concerning information about her health and cried while discussing a relationship that is important to her. I asked how her feet were as I was aware that she'd had complications with them over the winter. She allowed us to look at one of them and we instantly became concerned due to an ulcer on the bottom of her foot and the color of skin surrounding the ulcer. We encouraged her to seek medical attention but are doubtful of her follow through. She accepted a hug and requested shoes for our next visit. She said she was going to sleep outside that night as she wanted to be alone.
Another woman came by with a little dog. She had come from Minnesota and was unwilling to separate from her dog despite it making her ineligible to stay at the shelter and both of them becoming more vulnerable by staying out at night. She was afraid that if she surrendered her dog (which was definitely her support) that she wouldn't get it back. Even the idea of losing her pet was more than she could bear and she became teary very quickly.
A third woman told us that she was leaving a situation with a significant other that she felt was harmful to her own mental health. She was scared, teary and unsure of how to proceed in terms of her basic needs. We listened and made suggestions and explained that we would be back the following Tuesday if she needed to talk.
Normally I try to be positive about our experiences but in all honesty, I was very frustrated tonight. Frustrated that that so many people seem to linger on the street for what seems months and months. Frustrated that we're seeing more people struggling with mental health. Frustrated that there's not an easy answer or solution to offer to someone in need. Frustrated that hope seems to be dwindling. While I absolutely love the street ministry and spending time with the people we serve, I am concerned that these women (and so many others) will continue to slip through the cracks of available services and I didn't know how to stop that from happening. We'll continue to provide the support that we do and hope for the best, sometimes that's all we can do but tonight it simply didn't feel like it was enough.
Note: Ultimately, another agency contacted us during the following days and requested to discuss one of the women and we hope and pray that they will be able to help her.
Thank you so much for your support -- of prayers and donations -- so that we can provide care for the people we serve. We rely on you and genuinely appreciate all you do. Please keep that support coming, we as a ministry and as a community have much work to continue doing.
Karen - Nurse-Social Worker