Created in a response to the economic downturn, the Basic Needs Fund addresses critical food and shelter needs in the metro area.

Food and shelter should not be on anyone’s wish list. Unfortunately for too many individuals and families within the greater Milwaukee area over the past few years, they have.

The demand for such basic needs has put a strain on local food pantries and homeless shelters. These nonprofits have struggled to meet the increasing demand with limited financial resources.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation created the Basic Needs Fund in 2008 to help these area nonprofits address urgent food and shelter needs that grew due to the Great Recession. The fund has already done what the Foundation created it to do — namely help meet the needs of those in our community who have been struggling the most under the weight of the economic downturn. More than $2 million has been given to agencies in the four-county area over the past four years.

Thanks to Foundation support, food pantries like Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin and the Food Pantry of Waukesha County were able to purchase additional food items to meet the demand of people who walked through their doors. The Hunger Task Force invested money into its farm and fish hatchery, which each year produces more than 350,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to support its network of 80 pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

Area emergency shelters were able to cover basic operating expenses through Basic Needs Fund grants. Pathfinders, for example, covered the basic food, shelter, transportation and hygiene needs of runaway and homeless youth in its emergency shelter program. For the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, the funding was especially pivotal as it arrived at a time of the year when funding is generally a greater struggle. As a result, the agency was able to take care of families who sought help at its shelter in the summer.

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