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Local food pantries expand, adjust during COVID-19.

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During COVID-19 shutdowns, food pantries in Baraboo and Portage have begun serving additional people and extending their rules and hours.

Beyond Blessed Food Pantry, 1515 Walnut St. in Baraboo, would serve approximately 75 households a week prior to coronavirus. Director Shannon Howley said it now serves approximately 300-400 household per week on Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“We’re exhausted,” Howley said. “Thank you to the community for the support, both physically and financially. I just want to make sure people know this has been an extremely difficult time for everybody.”

Howley said serving a larger number of people per week requires approximately 30 volunteers.

“We’ve had a fantastic group of volunteers who have stepped up and helped us,” Howley said. “We couldn’t do what we’re doing without them.”

The Portage Food Pantry serves residents of the Portage School District, and allows visitors to come twice a month during coronavirus, according to their Facebook page. The pantry is open 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays.

Howley said the pantry has increased the ordering at the local stores with, as well as expanding to other stores in nearby areas to keep up with demand.

The Portage Food Pantry is not accepting food donations due to coronavirus safety, but encourages cash donations.

Howley said Beyond Blessed continues to take food donations, but said monetary donations go further.

“Money I can make go further than what an average person can. I have ways to purchase food at discounted rates,” Howley said. “But we do take food donations as well, as long as their severely expired.”

Both pantries used to have a “grocery store” set up, which allowed visitors to choose what they needed from shelves of different food items. With coronavirus, the Portage Food Pantry allows visitors to pick up boxes of essentials from the side door of the building.

Beyond Blessed holds a drive-thru pantry where visitors remain in their cars, open their trunks and have volunteers place food boxes in their cars.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @Nicole_Aimone

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