Undeterred by unseasonably bitter temperatures, hundreds gathered recently at the Milwaukee Christian Center, 2137 W. Greenfield Ave., to take home their share of thousands of pounds of donated food items.
More than 8,000 pounds of food were distributed to about 300 families, according to Ramon Candelaria, director of the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative (CSNI). CSNI co-sponsored the food giveaway with Molina Health Care.
The need for basic necessities such as nutritious food and health care is great in the area, according to Elizabeth Benz of Molina Health Care, the largest Hispanic-owned health care agency in the country.
“Just getting through day to day is a challenge for people who are hungry,” Benz said.
Molina provided information on the health services it offers at the event. But according to Benz, supplying residents with healthier items to eat such as chicken, turkey and pretzels is another way to serve the community.
“We don’t want to open more claims; we want people to stay healthy,” explained Benz, who said Molina serves more than 86,000 people in Wisconsin and hosts numerous food giveaways and other community events around the state throughout the year.
South side residents Suzette Pinkard, her daughter Ebony and sister Terance Brown considered the health care information a bonus after showing up for the much-needed free food.
The family lives together, pooling resources, according to Ebony. They spend about $250 to $300 bi-weekly on groceries but say their food budget doesn’t go far enough.
“The prices of everything went up; after you buy your meats you barely have more for anything else,” said Suzette Pinkard.
An additional problem for Brown is that she has no transportation and ends up spending most of her food budget buying overpriced items such as a dozen eggs that cost $3 at the nearby corner store.
“By the time I can get a ride there (to the grocery store) my money is gone,” said Brown, who receives Supplemental Security Income.
Tyna Rule, CSNI council president, said many residents of her neighborhood and across the country have no health care, no jobs and often no food. That’s why the event is important in communities such as Clarke Square, she said.
“They need this boost; they need the food to help them get energy, to feel healthy, to feed their children, and they need the information from Molina so that these low-income families can meet their health needs,” Rule said.