Through my work as an architect, it is a gift to work on building projects that I know will be impactful and valued by our community at large for years to come. This past year I worked on such a project. More than simply a structure, it is a place of hope and respite.
As communities become vaccinated against COVID-19, we celebrate that people are interacting again in-person and mask mandates are rolled back. It’s clear that the pandemic has made a mark on all of us.
At the beginning of the quarantine in March 2020, some anguished over how to make the perfect sourdough or if they would ever get to eat at their favorite restaurant again. At the same time, so many others in our community worried about whether they would be able to feed their families. According to the Public Health Madison & Dane County, over 11% of all people and over 17% of all children in Dane County were food insecure pre-pandemic. The pandemic greatly increased societal needs for social services such as food pantries.
Thankfully our communities have resources like the Badger Prairie Needs Network (BPNN).
BPNN is one of the busiest food pantries in Dane County. Located in Verona, it is a 100% volunteer-run organization and serves over 24,000 community members. Beginning in a church closet in 1986, BPNN helps local households overcome food insecurity. It is a distribution point for smaller pantries and organizes a Kitchen to Table program which receives food donations from local grocery stores and workplace cafeterias. For area families in need, BPNN strives to be a welcoming environment while making food pantry shopping easy and purposeful. The shopping experience at BPNN is like one in a grocery store.
CHANGES FOR THE BETTER
With BPNN’s multitude of programs and local need, the facility’s storage capacity for goods and perishables was too stretched to meet demand. When the pandemic began, unemployment rates rose and the necessity for food pantries in Dane County increased. In 2020, BPNN distributed the ingredients for 758,000 meals, up from 620,000 in 2019. Bulk food management at the center went from seven tons per week to over nine tons per week.
To address the increased demand, facility expansion and construction at BPNN was prioritized. Improvements to the building included the addition of walk-in coolers for perishable foods. For shoppers’ comfort, a wind barrier and large canopy were added to the building to protect patrons while they loaded food into their cars. The loading dock area was also expanded to make the logistics of moving food more efficient for volunteers. Today, over 6,700 families rely on BPNN for food annually and these facility updates contribute to the overall success in making this happen.
I am proud to have been a part of the project team at EUA who contributed to these facility improvements. It’s through work like this, that we elevate the well-being of our entire community and raise the potential for others. It’s inspiring and critical to the vitality of our communities.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Organizations like the Badger Prairie Needs Network make our communities stronger. Please consider donating to your local pantry financially or with your time as a volunteer or both. Together we can all make a difference where we live, learn, work, and play. I'd love to hear your thoughts, check out this blog on my LinkedIn to leave a comment.