| Oshkosh Northwestern
OSHKOSH – Over 15 years ago, Carmen Leal scrounged for resources in her local community just to put food on the table.
She was caring for her husband, who died of Huntington’s disease in 2005, and her two children.
It was a difficult time, but she and her children made it through, and she later moved to Oshkosh from Hawaii and has been here for the past three years.
Then the pandemic hit. Leal watched as her neighbors struggled to feed their families. It brought back memories of her fighting hunger years ago.
So she took action.
Leal made pots of soup and dropped them off on people’s porches. At Costco, she bought toilet paper and canned items and gave half to those in need.
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“I don’t have a lot of money to give, but I have time. I can cook,” she said.
Teaming up with Feeding America, Leal started picking up food boxes and delivering them to neighbors. She wrote recipes to go with the boxes so people “didn’t feel like they were getting hand-me-down food.”
As the pandemic wears on, Leal isn’t the only Oshkosh-area resident who’s stepped up to fight against hunger in the area.
“I do feel passionate that if you’re in a community, you should be a part of your community,” she said.
In eastern Wisconsin, one in seven people struggle with hunger, an increase of 36% from this time last year. Community members have helped in actions big and small, including volunteering, donating and helping neighbors, said Patti Habeck, president of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, in an interview with the Oshkosh Northwestern.
“It’s important to pay attention. Be very attentive, thoughtful and generous. We’re all in this together,” Habeck said.
One person Leal delivers food to regularly lives about a half-mile away from her home. A lifelong Oshkosh resident, Angela Ewald-Anderson reached out for help via Facebook.
“My health got bad, so I had no choice but to stay home. Carmen does so much for so many. We can only get through this together. There are so many people that are struggling,” Ewald-Anderson said.
Amid growing demand for assistance, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin is launching its annual Stock the Shelves campaign that encourages readers to donate money to help fight hunger in their local communities.
Since 2012, Stock the Shelves has raised $5 million for food pantries across the state, thanks to donations of readers and support of community partners, including Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.
Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin uses the donations to distribute food to partnering food pantries. Readers can steer their dollars to specific local communities in the comment area of electronic donations or on checks made payable to: Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, ATTN: Stock The Shelves, 2911 W. Evergreen Drive, Appleton, WI 54913.
The campaign runs through Oct. 31. All donors are listed in a thank you ad that will appear in the Northwestern’s Thanksgiving edition.
With the end of hunger in Oshkosh not in sight, Leal plans on continuing to deliver food to her neighbors who need a meal.
“My love language is food and that’s the hallmark of who I am. It’s special when I create something and give it,” Leal said.
Contact Alex Groth at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @grothalexandria.
Stock the Shelves campaign fights hunger in local communities
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin’s Stock the Shelves campaign encourages readers to help fight hunger locally through Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.