When school’s out for summer, Faith Santa Fe Lutheran Church is hard at work ensuring neighborhood children have snack time year round. A member of the Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin network of pantries and meal programs, the church provides food and more to the surrounding community on the southwest side of Milwaukee.
Faith Santa Fe Lutheran Church provides daycare, children programs and meals for children in the community during the summer months. While a park nearby provides sandwiches in the summer, the church looks to fill the gaps between the school meals and the park lunches. They know that one in five children in Milwaukee don’t have enough to eat and are missing out on school lunches from June through August.
In addition to child programs, Faith Santa Fe Lutheran Church runs a community pantry from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. every Saturday. Pastor Richard Suero started the pantry with 25 families from the parish after realizing that they were struggling to pay for their basic needs like food, clothes and shelter.
“If food can alleviate something to provide, then we want to provide it,” Suero said.
After seeing the impact the pantry made on the parish, they opened it up to the community and the pantry quickly grew to serve over 300 families. It proved to be more than the small church expected.
“They would line the streets at 5:30 – 6 a.m. and the police would come by and ask what was happening,” Suero shared. “People would respond, ‘We’re waiting for the pantry to open.’ It was too much for us to handle and it was too much for the community to handle.”
Eventually, the pantry reluctantly limited their service area to only the surrounding 53214 and 53215 zip codes, but the church still serves almost 200 families. They visit Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin two to three times a week to pick up food. They also have three storage rooms and numerous coolers just to supply the pantry for one Saturday morning.
The pantry can now serve a sufficient amount of food to the community and can also eliminate issues like language barriers and community overload.
“Sixty nine percent of our population are Mexican [and speak Spanish], so we try to get food [and volunteers] that are culturally appropriate for the population we serve” Suero explained.
The pantry values its ability to specially pick foods and have Spanish-speaking or bilingual volunteers to best fit the community they serve.
“[We focus on asking,] ‘How do we build relationships with people,’” Suero said. “’How do we do this in a just way to serve as many people as possible?’”
To find a food pantry near you, visit our pantry locator.