CRANDON, Wis. (WAOW) -- Almost every Wisconsin County is seeing higher rates of food insecurity in 2020, according to Feeding America.
Forest County is experiencing one of the highest rates in the state, at 17.6%.
Gene Shawano Jr. is a volunteer at Wasmogishek Food Pantry in Crandon. He said, "The difficult part is, there is so much need right now. During the Thanksgiving season, we were unable to fill all of the requests."
That means more Wisconsinites went without a meal to eat this thanksgiving, several months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Initially there was a very big drastic increase," said Patti Habeck, CEO, and President of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. She explained that the impacts of record unemployment did not stop in April. "Now we are seeing a pretty settled 36 percent increase [of food insecurity] across the board."
Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin is now serving about 200,000 more people (600,000), through USDA food boxes and work with pantries around the state.
"The food pantries in these local communities are the heroes," said Habeck.
Food pantries like Newcap in Crandon. "Surprisingly, we have been blessed," said Deputy CEO Deb Barlament. As a whole, Newcap provides food and other resources to Northeastern Wisconsin. Recently they've been adding on 45 clients each month.
However, Barlament explained, they're not in it alone. She said, "It has really surprised us how many people and organizations have stepped up to the plate and said, 'what can I do to help you?'"
In 2020, non-profits have leaned on eahcother and worked together in ways they haven't before. Extra food and resources are shared throughout communities.
Habeck said those changes will long outlast this pandemic.