COA Youth & Family Centers is responding to COVID-19 by making sure children and families in Milwaukee’s low-income Amani neighborhood have access to healthy foods. COA is expanding its food pantry – which experienced a 618% increase in the number of people served in March. COA is also partnering with Hunger Task Force (HTF) and Milwaukee Center for Independence (MCFI) to open a free meal program beginning Monday, April 13.
COA’s food pantry, located at COA’s Goldin Center (2320 W. Burleigh St.), is keeping its pantry fully stocked and staffed to accommodate the growing need for food as schools remain closed and more families lose wages. In addition to serving people Mondays and Saturdays, COA has opened the food pantry Wednesdays to meet high demand. Before schools closed, COA’s food pantry served 65 people daily; in the past three weeks, this figure has increased by 618%.
In addition to expanding its food pantry, COA is launching a free meal program in Moody Park beginning April 13 in partnership with Hunger Task Force (HTF) and Milwaukee Center for Independence (MCFI). At this meal program, COA staff and volunteers will serve three healthy meals a day in Moody Park (adjacent to COA’s Goldin Center) five days a week (Monday – Friday). Meals may be picked up between 11:30 AM – noon, at no cost to families.
“For people who don’t have resources, this [COA] is the only place they can go in the Amani neighborhood.”
The Amani neighborhood is at the heart of Milwaukee’s largest food desert; with no full-service grocery stores in the area, there are limited options for residents to secure nutritious foods. COVID-19 threatens to exacerbate existing food insecurity in the neighborhood, but COA Youth & Family Centers is stepping up to meet the need. According to COA’s Family Resource Center Director Nicole Thompson, “For people who don’t have resources, this [COA] is the only place they can go in the Amani neighborhood. The corner stores are way too expensive, and they have no fresh fruit or vegetables. And on top of this, the other food pantries in the area are closed.”
COA’s Executive Director Tom Schneider noted, “We will of course be taking extra health precautions, but COA is committed to continuing service to the more than 10,000 children and families we engage each year. Even under these difficult circumstances, it is heartwarming to see so many residents helping out and to see so many agencies partnering together to provide critically needed services.” Schneider also noted that COA has served low income Milwaukee children and families for 114 years, including through two world wars and the great depression and COA will persevere.
COA has significantly increased access to healthy foods in Amani since it opened its food pantry in the neighborhood in 2018. COA has been developing its vision of food security and justice in the Amani community for years and is prepared to continue providing food safely and reliably to a growing number of families amidst the crisis.