Sturgeon Bay Food Pantry Looks for New Direction

Washington’s plans to cut discretionary spending are beginning to have consequences for even the most basic of social programs in Door County. Lakeshore CAP (Community Action Program) announced Feb. 8 that it is looking to get out of the food pantry business after 30 years. Lakeshore CAP operates pantries in Door and Kewaunee Counties.

“It’s a matter of necessity,” said Noel Ryder, CEO of Lakeshore CAP, in talking about the organization’s decision. “We’ve been operating this program for 30 years and have subsidized the pantry operations from other sources. We have buildings in Door and Kewaunee counties which house both food pantries and food storage. We have to license each as a food warehouse each year. We can no longer sustain this model.”

He said changes in federal funding for Community Service Block Grants that the President mentioned in his State of the Union Address was a final impetus needed to spur the change after two years of discussions.

A new operator for the pantries in Door and Kewaunee counties is being sought, but Lakeshore CAP will continue to manage The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) contract. Lakeshore CAP manages the TEFAP contract for nine area counties, but Door and Kewaunee are the only counties where it actually operates the locations. Ryder said the management of this contract is also under review.

“The other seven counties have one or more pantries that receive the food directly, we order the food for them, and monitor how they operate,” Ryder said. “We serve as the distributor by arranging shipment to the pantry, but we are not directly involved in the distribution. We are now going to have to do that for Door and Kewaunee counties.”

Ryder said the organization receives tremendous support at both locations, and that contributions of food and funds have actually been increasing in the difficult economic conditions. However, those contributions go to buy food for the hungry, not to support the infrastructure of the locations.

“One of our primary concerns,” Ryder said, “is that with the reductions anticipated in the budget, this program needs to be moved to a more secure community-based system of support to assure that it will continue to meet the needs of the Door and Kewaunee county communities.”

The Door County program assists about 350 households per month, according to Ryder.

“This is a business decision based on trends and projected finances that must be dealt with. It is certainly not because the need is not great,” said Ryder.

Wisconsin TEFAP programs received 5.5 million pounds of food last year, and this year the projected amount is 14 million pounds. Ryder indicated that this growth in food available to communities has not been matched with funds to transport, store, and distribute the food.

The Sturgeon Bay food pantry has been located at 131 S. Third Ave. in Sturgeon Bay since 1985.