Article was written by Amy Greil, Community Development Extension Educator.
Originally published in The Kenosha News.
Last week, our largest food pantry in Kenosha County hosted a ribbon-cutting of its relocated pantry facility that is now housed on the same site as its emergency shelter program.
Congratulations to Shalom Center’s leadership, staff and volunteers. The nearly 10,000 annual pantry users are sure to benefit from this achievement that looks to the future needs of emergency food services in Kenosha County.
Likewise, another significant achievement is being celebrated in March as the Kenosha County Food Bank Inc. Board of Directors will convene to incorporate a new nonprofit.
These leaders are similarly planning for the future of emergency food services in Kenosha County.
Let us explore how a food bank interacts with pantries and why everyone “wins” when there is innovation locally in the way food is sourced, stored and distributed across the County.
Food pantries serve food directly to clients in need of emergency relief. We know through our network of Kenosha County-based food pantries, these organizations reach 15,000-plus, unduplicated users annually. Pantries specialize in meeting client needs.
Food banks, however, specialize in meeting needs of organizations like pantries and meal programs. Banks are, for all intents and purposes, warehouses—serving as bridges from producers, wholesalers, distributors to local pantries and programs.
Simple economics tell us that overall costs are reduced when efficiencies are realized through economies of scale. The estimated 30 national brands of locally based food processors and food distributors located in Kenosha County get it. E-commerce in today’s global economy is driving so much of these economies of scale where warehousing and distribution activity moves perishable product around the country through sophisticated technology networks.
What community members often do not consider is that many of these same companies require similarly equipped warehouses when donating food product locally. National and international brands need specialized warehouse counterparts that can safely, efficiently and rapidly store and distribute food products—or they ship their donations out of the local community all together.
The great irony is that Kenosha County is home to some of the most sophisticated distribution centers in the U.S., but our local emergency food distribution system has not seen significant innovation since the 1950s.
Instead of watching as millions of pounds of free, donated food from our Kenosha County-based companies be exported to Milwaukee or Chicago because of limited local storage and distribution capacity, bring on the bank.
Establishing a food bank creates economies of scale to manage the estimated 2.5-plus million pounds of food currently distributed through our network of excellent pantries while looking to the future of a growing county.
Thank you to those who have been hard at work to bring this needed innovation to Kenosha County.