Every Saturday morning for the last 3 years, Michael does what few teenagers naturally want to do.  This grateful 15-year-old wakes up early to volunteer at the Despensa de la Paz food pantry near his home on Milwaukee’s South side.  

Michael’s family benefitted from the pantry’s services when his parents struggled to provide enough food for him and his three brothers, and now he loves giving back.

“The pantry was there to help my family during our time of need, so being able to help others who are in that same situation makes me really happy,”  said Michael.

Michael’s family is not alone. In 2013, an estimated 12% of Wisconsin households were considered food insecure. The minimum cost to feed a family of four for a week is $131.40.  Food pantries often mean the difference between putting money towards food, rent, utilities or other necessary expenses (U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA Economic Research Service).

Despensa de la Paz, located on South 22nd and Mitchell, is one of three Friedens Community Ministries’ emergency food pantries helping feed individuals and families across the Greater Milwaukee area.

“In order for families to be financially stable we must make sure their basic needs are met,” says United Way Financial Stability Portfolio Manager Shannon Reed. “One of United Way’s Financial Stability goals is ensuring families and individuals have access to affordable and healthy food.”

“Thanks to United Way funding for our Emergency Food Pantry program, in 2014 we were able to serve 30,000 people in the community between the 3 pantries,” says Catherine Draeger, Executive Director of Friedens.

Last year, 84% of participants who came to the pantry felt their family’s 3-5 day emergency food needs were met.

“In 2014, we served just under 15,000 individuals and averaged around 125 families every Saturday. In other words, we are feeding one family per minute,” Draeger said. 

Another reason Michael likes helping out at the pantry: it feels like a second home. “I like that I can catch up with my neighbors while also helping get them what they need,” he said.

“More than half of our volunteers are people who live in this neighborhood,” said Draeger, “It truly is a community serving a community!” 

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© 2020 United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is a 501(C)(3) Nonprofit registered in the US under EIN: 39-0806190.