Hunger in the Northwoods: Who is Using Food Pantries? Submitted: 02/18/2013
Story By Kailey Burton

ANTIGO - This month we're looking at hunger in the Northwoods. We've brought you the stories of dedicated volunteers and programs that bring thousands of pounds of food to families in need. This week we're focusing on WHO benefits from hunger relief in the Northwoods.

It's not easy to find someone willing to talk about their struggle with hunger. Thankfully Helen Adair of Antigo shares her time helping the food pantry, and she was willing share her story as well.

Helen knows too well what it's like to go hungry. As a child in Scotland during the Second World War rations were slim and hunger was inescapable.

"You get knots in your stomach," Helen said, "And my mother used to say, 'Drink some water. Drink some water' so there was something in our stomachs."

In 2013, in the United States, we don't live in war-time. Still, hunger is here too.

"It shouldn't be. This is America. Everyone should have plenty to eat," says Helen, "You know? It shouldn't be- but it's here."

Today Helen's need for food is much less severe. Even so, for her and many families in the Northwoods, a limited income forces tough choices.

"The money is gone and you need products. You need toilet paper, laundry soap..."

As Helen puts is, 'We all need to eat', and everything else has to wait. Hygiene and medication fall to the side, but a food pantry puts those back on the shelf. It gives families a little breathing room. Donna Rus knows just how much that means.

"They will give us a hug, 'thank you so much, oh my child will really like this... We haven't had oranges or apples for a really long time'," said Donna, the President of the Steering Committee that runs the Antigo Area Food pantry, quoting some of their patrons. "Some of the small children will take an apple, and before we can even wash it, they'll bite into it. So they are delighted."

How in the world do people struggle for food in the wealthiest nation in the world? Divorce, lay-offs, hours being cut, elderly grandparents caring for children- these are the realities that Donna see bringing people in to their food pantry- Things that could happen to anyone.

"Just last week we had a member of a family register with us and said ‘I'm so embarrassed, I never thought it would come to this'."

For that family and nearly 400 more, the Antigo Area Food Pantry is there to take some of the bite out of hunger.

The Antigo Area food pantry has only been open since May. They formed when local church food pantries combined to better serve the community.

They never turn anyone away.

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