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Tomah Health Foundation helps hungry families

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Tomah Health Community Foundation vice president Brian Eirschele, left, presented a ceremonial check to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin FoodShare specialist Brian Larson Nov. 18.

The Tomah Health Community Foundation is helping put healthy food in reach of struggling families in Monroe County. Foundation officials donated $3,000 to the Second Harvest Foodbank’s FoodShare Wisconsin program during a presentation Nov. 18.

“It’s the generosity of the local community that allows us to give money back to our local community,” foundation vice president Brian Eirschele said of the donation. “There are a lot of people in need in our community and at this time of year it only gets worse, and with the change in the economy it’s more important that we find these opportunities to give back to people in need.”

It is the ninth year the Foundation has supported Second Harvest, which reports that one in 13 people or about 102,000 residents in southwestern Wisconsin struggle with hunger.

“Second Harvest FoodBank does a lot, but we could not do what we do without the support of volunteers and foundations like Tomah Health; it gets us out in the community and brings that education awareness to people,” said Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin FoodShare outreach specialist Brian Larson. “We couldn’t do it without them, it’s extremely important.”

While there always is a need, Larson said the need for food assistance has increased over the last few months.

“Unfortunately there is always a need, but it seems like the need has gone up in the last 12 to 16 months for various reasons; whether it’s the price of gas or food or whatever, so the need continues to increase and families are still struggling,” Larson said.

Formerly known as food stamps, Second Harvest Foodbank’s FoodShare program allows eligible residents to receive a debit card that is loaded with FoodShare benefits that can be used at most grocery stores.

Larson said when people use the FoodShare program, it helps takes the stress off other food resources. “If a person has the FoodShare program they might be less likely to go to a food pantry because they will have that card and go grocery shopping and buy food that will work for their family.”

He said the program also helps to reduce the stigma that people are getting financial assistance. “Stigma has been attached to the FoodShare program for a number of years. People are sometimes reluctant to sign up because they say neighbors will find out they are on the program,” he said. “When I see people choosing between heating their houses or food or medication, this is a nice alternative because when you use the FoodShare program, it’s like everybody else, you’re going into the grocery store and paying for groceries with a debit card so it does remove some of the stigma.”

Larson said the process for people to sign up for the FoodShare program has changed over the years. “It used to be a very tedious and paper application process, but a lot of the process can be done over the telephone now and we’ve also begun using mobile apps, internet and website that will help make the process more efficient and easier.”

He added that while the FoodShare program helps ensure potentially eligible participants learn how to obtain benefits; it also meets community needs. From July 2021 through June 2022, Second Harvest assisted with the submission of 50 FoodShare Wisconsin applications in Monroe County, which created $101,525 in FoodShare benefits for residents to purchase food at local grocers and generated 33,070 meals for food insecure Monroe County residents. He said the program also created $156,348 in economic impact in Monroe County.

Second Harvest serves residents in Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Lafayette, Monroe, Richland, Rock, Sauk and Vernon counties. Officials say residents can learn if they are eligible for the program by visiting GetAQuestCard.org or call the FoodShare Help Line at 1-877-366-3635.

Information is also available at https://www.secondharvestmadison.org/foodshare-program/

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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