For the past six years, Sheboygan County Food Bank has gone through a major growth spurt to help more of our neighbors living with hunger. We’ve added eight staff members, four programs, bulk food purchasing, key equipment (like commercial coolers and freezers, pallet shelving, and a fleet of trucks) and a lot of exciting collaborations within the community. During this development, Herb Kohler and Natalie Black have provided substantial monetary support, helping us continue to grow and fuel our mission.
In fact, their contributions have been critical for Sheboygan County Food Bank to be able to keep up with the increase in demand for emergency food over the past few years, including directly supporting our newest program geared towards serving our homeless neighbors that launched May of last year. Our Herb Kohler and Natalie Black Community Cafe, recently named after Mr. Kohler and Natalie to honor and recognize their generosity, welcomes everyone Monday through Saturday to free warm meals and coffee over the lunch hours at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Sheboygan. The Cafe also functions as a comfortable space for guests to overcome challenges they are facing. How exactly? Guests have the chance to connect with other present organizations offering resources for safe housing options, employment leads, mental health support, child care opportunities, meal delivery programs, and more, every Wednesday.
With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering in 2022, the Cafe was busy from the get-go and our core program, Food+ for Neighbors program, continued to distribute more pounds of non-perishable and fresh foods. The Cafe served an average of just under 250 meals to individuals each week last year and Food+ for Neighbors provided food to 3,200 families each month through our network of food pantries and other partners compared to 2021 when 2,000 families were served per month. This marks a sharp 60% increase in local families seeking food between 2021 and 2022.
Our latest data shows that more individuals and families are continuing to count on us in 2023. Supply chain issues, high inflation and food prices, as well as decreased Medicaid and housing benefits are the ongoing and new challenges driving the need for emergency food. In March, FoodShare benefits (formally, Food Stamps) put in place at the start of the pandemic returned to their regular benefit amount, resulting in an average loss of $221 per month for enrolled families struggling with hunger. We’re estimating that hundreds more families throughout Sheboygan County will soon be in crisis and relying on our services.
“Serious challenges out of our control have and will continue to put many more families at risk of not having enough food on their tables. Thanks to Herb Kohler’s and Natalie Black’s generosity, SCFB is reaching more of our neighbors and directly improving the lives of thousands of Sheboygan County families. We can’t thank them enough for their kindness, compassion and tremendous support.” Patrick Boyle, Executive Director, Sheboygan County Food Bank.
Earlier this month we held a one-year anniversary celebration party for the Cafe during open hours. Guests, including Sheboygan Mayor, Ryan Sorenson, were treated to a special meal and cake.
Continued compassionate support from our community is how we will be able to make sure our urgent work to feed our neighbors doesn’t skip a beat. Interested in being a part of the Cafe? We’re always in need of volunteers to fill shifts throughout the week. Volunteers ages 12 and up help with light food prep and set up, serving lunch, greeting guests, and clean up. Check out the available shifts and sign up to volunteer. If you’d like to make a financial gift, you can designate your donation to support the Cafe.