New banner identifying the Spring Valley Community Food Pantry. Submitted photo
New banner identifying the Spring Valley Community Food Pantry. Submitted photo

Submitted by Katie Bartko, RD, Nutrition Coordinator, UW-Madison Division of Extension, Pierce, Polk & St. Croix Counties

BALDWIN, WI – The Spring Valley Community Food Pantry has made some changes to make it feel a little more welcoming.  A change in the layout of the pantry last fall made the shopping area bigger and helps give it the feel of a grocery store.  This allows participants to be able to push a cart down the aisles to shop. 

Previously, participants would select items from shelves in a small room where only one shopper and no carts could fit.  Volunteers would then have to bring items from the separate produce and refrigerator/freezer sections.  Thanks to a crew of volunteers, all of these items are now in one place. 

The redesign also helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by placing the healthier options front and center.  The pantry worked with UW-Madison Division of Extension staff to utilize the Safe and Healthy Food Pantry Project guide to do this.  A grant provided by Allina Health’s Charitable Contribution Committee covered the cost of new signs in the pantry as well as a produce rack to display the increasing amount of fresh produce that the pantry has available. 

The Spring Valley Community Food Pantry gave out over 45,000 pounds of food in 519 visits in 2018.  Making sure the food offered at the pantry is healthy becomes even more important when you consider that 2 in 3 low-income Wisconsinites are overweight or obese and 1 in 10 has been diagnosed with diabetes.  That is why the pantry is also working on adopting policy that will help ensure the foods available are nutritious and food-sourcing organizations have been working diligently to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins.

The changes at the pantry were initiated at the request of former managers Diane Hurtgen and Brenda Kado and have been embraced by new managers Ruth Nelson and Betty Wall.  “No one wants to have to use the food pantry,” says FoodWIse Coordinator with Extension, Katie Bartko.  “But it is there for those who need it.  We want their experience to be as dignified as possible.”

The Spring Valley Community Food Pantry is located at S425 Church Avenue (across from St. John’s Lutheran church).  It is open on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month from 10-11:30am and 4:30-6pm.