Food Security

Rising demand, lower donations and higher stakes: How food pantries are keeping people fed during the pandemic

By Molly DeVore

Open Seat has moved their pantry from the fourth floor of the SAC to the sidewalk outside Union South.

A line forms in front of two folding tables outside Union South. It looks like a typical campus event, only there is no one else around and the people behind the table are wearing face masks– these students aren’t selling posters or asking you to sign up for their org, they’re giving out pre-packaged bags of groceries. 

Open Seat used to operate out of the Student Activity Center feeding around 2,000 University of Wisconsin students a month, but COVID-19 has changed everything. 

The SAC, along with all other campus buildings, has been closed. Zoey Dlott, UW senior and Internal Director for Open Seat, said they have started distributing a virtual order form where students can sign up to receive a bag of pre-packaged groceries that they can then pick up outside Union South from noon to one every Tuesday. 

Students are instructed to stand six feet apart from one another and Open Seat workers wear masks and gloves at all times. The prepackaged bags are donated by Second Harvest Foodbank, southwestern Wisconsin’s largest hunger-relief charity. 

In Wisconsin, these food resources are essential as about 1 in 10 households in Wisconsin were food insecure before the pandemic, according to the Wisconsin Food Security Project. However, COVID has led to a spike in demand and a drop in donations, forcing Second Harvest to purchase more of its food directly. 

Michelle Orge, Second Harvest’s CEO, said that in the 20 years she has worked with food banks she has never seen a situation as bad as COVID.

“As food bankers we’re just used to trying to fix everything.” Orge said. “But I don’t know if we’re built for this. It’s pretty big and we’re doing a great job and we’re keeping up to some extent, but it’s gonna take more resources to do what we want to do.”

All Open Seat workers must wear masks.

Second Harvest is a member foodbank of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Feeding America reported that almost all 200 food banks in their network have experienced a spike in demand, yet nearly 60% are facing reduced inventory levels.

Orge said Second Harvest is now distributing more than double the amount of food, despite a decrease in donations. 

Because of this increased need Second Harvest has had to focus all of their resources on their Mobile Pantries. These pantries travel across southwestern Wisconsin, though some days they run out of their pre-packaged boxes before everyone has been fed. Orge said that hearing someone had to be turned away is “the worst possible news.”

Second Harvest is not the only food resource that has had to drastically change the way it functions. Barb Luedke, food pantry coordinator for the Keep, a pantry providing food for local students, faculty members and staff, said they had to move their operations from the basement of Luther Memorial Church to the sidewalk out front. 

The Keep also receives their donations from Second Harvest, meaning they have made the shift from self-selection to pre-packaged bags. 

The Keep gives out 10 lb bags every Thursday afternoon, including non-perishables as well as produce and dairy products when they can get them. So far they have had enough food for everyone who shows up, though Luedke said the situation changes day-to-day. 

“The word is flexible these days,” Luedke said. “Everything is subject to change is the second term we hear so often.” 

Both Second Harvest and the Keep have had to operate with less volunteers as many have been asked to stay home due to their advanced age and therefore, increased vulnerability to COVID-19.

 According to Feeding America, member food banks across their network have shown nearly a 60% decrease in volunteers. Orge said that due to this decrease, Second Harvest has hired 15 laid off service workers as additional temporary staff, another unforseen added cost. 

While some food resources are scrambling to meet the growing need, others have had to stop operating entirely. 

The Campus Food Shed, a student organization working to address campus food insecurity and reduce food waste, had to shut down mid March. 

The Food Shed stocks a fridge in the SAC with unsellable food from Fresh Madison Market and Madison Sourdough. This food is available to any student for free. Now that the SAC is closed, they have had to stop. 

Kayva Ayalasomayajula, a junior at UW and Campus Food Shed team member, said she is worried about the impact this loss of food will have on students, as according to a study published by the College and University Food Bank Alliance, one in five students in the U.S. identifies as food insecure. 

“Many students are out of jobs so they’re more worried about paying their rent than buying fruits and vegetables,” Ayalasomayajul said. “Nutrition is so important for mental health and immune functioning, that’s something that we’re worried about especially because it’s already such a stressful time.”

This rise in unemployment is impacting food pantries across the country. According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the number of unemployment applications filed on March 30th was 24,664, more than 20 times the amount filed on this date last year. 

According to Feeding America, this rise in unemployment paired with school closures could result in an estimated 46% increase in the number of  people experiencing food insecurity nationally.

Dlott said Open Seat is prepared to serve this potential increase in hungry students. That if campus reopens this fall they will be able to double the amount of food they order each week.

“The pandemic has impacted everyone in a different way but what a lot of people don’t understand is that the pantry is how most students who use the pantry normally get the majority of their food,” Dlott said. “With people being out of jobs… it makes now even more important than ever that we provide this service.”

Dlott and Luedke urged those who are financially able, to donate money to Second Harvest, and those who are healthy, to volunteer.

Orge said that without their current volunteers and donations they would not be able to stay open. Second Harvest and other local food resources will continue to need this community support, because as Orge said, the demand will not be going away anytime soon.

“Don’t forget about us once this subsides because we’re still gonna be here feeding people and even more people than we’ve fed before,” Orge said, “It’s not gonna be over when it’s over for people who are still food insecure.”

Online Music Festivals

While all upcoming concerts have been cancelled, artists move online to provide fans with an at-home live music experience through virtual festivals.

By Hunter Carroll

#1: Digital Mirage

Digital Mirage, organized by Proximity Records, as well as the Los Angeles-based event organizer Brownies and Lemonade, took place from April 3-5. The event was streamed over YouTube for three days and raised over $300,000 for Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, an organization that provides financial assistance to career musicians and music industry workers. The lineup featured popular electronic artists like Louis the Child, Alison Wonderland and Kaskade. Over the three days, the event has more than 1 million attendees, setting a new standard for virtual music festivals to come. 

Pluko | Digital Mirage 2020

Pluko’s set was my favorite of the entire weekend. At just 18 years old, Sam Martinsen, also known as Pluko, has already seen incredible success, including support from the popular electronic group Odesza, who signed him to their Foreign Family Collective in 2018. This set stood out to me because of the use of almost all original tracks at such a young age. It was also fun to watch because he played a live set instead of mixing his tracks, which can be seen in the video link above.

Medasin | Digital Mirage 2020

Grant Nelson, also known as Medasin, has found success in recent years, especially in 2017 with remixes for Portugal. The Man and Martin Garrix. In 2018, he released an album titled “Irene,” and he went on tour for that album as well. Just recently, he released his second album titled “RIPPLS.” His set for Digital Mirage gave off a very chill, electronic vibe, with some of his own music, including one of my favorites from his new album titled “Melody X.”

#2: Room Service Virtual Music Festival

After the success of Digital Mirage, another virtual music festival is set to take place from April 24-26. The event is presented by Andy King, famous for his role in the Fyre Fest documentary on Netflix, as well as Chill Nation and Trap Nation. Proceeds from the event will go towards the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, as well as Feeding America, where $1 provides 10 meals to those in need to help those affected by COVID-19.

Kasbo | Room Service Music Festival 2020

Carl Garsbo, also known as Kasbo, is known for his chill electronic music. He gained popularity in 2013 and has continued this success through today. Like Pluko, Kasbo was also signed to the Foreign Family Collective and has had multiple world tours since then.  

Whethan | Room Service Music Festival 2020

Ethan Snoreck, also known as Whethan, is a 20 year old producer from Chicago. He is known for many of his songs, including his hit “Can’t Hide” featuring Ashe, as well as his Life of a Wallflower EP that he released in 2019.

Lane 8 | Room Service Music Festival 2020

Lane 8 is known for his progressive house style. He has many popular tracks, including his song “Road,” as well as remixes that he has done for Porter Robinson and Odesza.

#3: Boiler Room: Streaming From Isolation

Boiler Room has been streaming intimate DJ sets from around the world since they began in 2010. They have hosted events from major cities around the world, but hosting sets from artists homes was something new to come out of quarantine for them.

Disclosure | Boiler Room: Streaming From Isolation | #13

Made up of brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, the electronic music group Disclosure began making music in 2010. They did not begin to gain popularity until 2012 with their song “Tenderly,” which was released in January, followed by one of the most popular songs, “Latch,” released in October. Recently this year, the duo released an EP titled “Ecstasy” which has become popular recently, gaining support from multiple artists. This specific mix features Guy Lawrence mixing groovy house tracks for an hour and a half from his home.

#4: Folamour | Defected Records Virtual Festival 2020

Similar to Boiler Room, Defected Records has been posting sets online for quite some time, but these live stream events during the COVID-19 pandemic have their highest number of viewers ever. This set from Folamour aired on March 27 as part of the Defected Records Virtual Festival.

#5 Marc Rebillet | Quaranstream

By creating all of his music live and on the spot, Marc Rebillet has brought attention to a new form of electronic music.

Eating Diseased Animal Flesh

Despite warnings, Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods,” refuses to stop eating disease-ridden animal flesh

By Nick Rawling

A blood-lusting Andrew Zimmern, about to eat God-knows-what (Original Image Courtesy of Flickr)

While most Americans are adhering to recommendations from epidemiologists and other medical experts to shelter at home, Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods,” is completely out of control.

Despite desperate pleas from family members and close friends to postpone the shooting of the 14th season of his hit show, Zimmern has actually ramped up episode production during the pandemic.    

“Flights are so cheap right now,” Zimmern said. “I couldn’t let an opportunity like this go to waste.”

Zimmern’s team is currently filming in Xiaogan, China, where he plans to dine on pangolin and of course, bat.

“I really don’t buy into the whole ‘you shouldn’t do that, you’re going to give yourself a devastating illness’ thing,” Zimmern said. “It’s really no big deal. I ate bats in Thailand in season 1 and in Samoa in season 3. That’s true, you can Google that.”

Even more astonishingly, Zimmern told me he intends to prepare the nocturnal mammals “extra-rare,” explaining that “it’s just a texture thing, really.”

I also spoke with some Chinese locals, who seemed equal parts angered and confused by Zimmern’s bloodthirsty rampage. 

“First of all, this guy’s goofy round-lens glasses make him look like a shaved Teddy Roosevelt,” a nurse from Wuhan told me. “Second of all, I’ve literally never known anyone who’s eaten bats. You people are psychotic.”

One community restaurant owner, however, is making the most of the situation. 

“I don’t mind the chunky, nicer-looking version of Vin Diesel,” she said. “My business was dried up with everyone staying at home, but this guy comes in and will eat anything. Last night I gave him wet cat food, told him it was a pangolin stomach, and charged him $30.00 for it.”

After his tour through Central China, Zimmern will take viewers to Italy, Spain and finally, New York, because not all strange foods are in far-away places.
“Get this shit,” Zimmern said through a mouthful of bat liver pâté. “In New York they eat pizza with a crust so thin you can practically see through it — and they tell people that it’s good. How’s that for bizarre?”

Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo’s latest hit

By Joe States

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo’s cute, cartoony life simulation game, has become something of an internet sensation in the US since its release on March 20. Twitter is flooded with Animal Crossing content, from screenshots to fanart to long tirades either for or against Tom Nook, a raccoon who the player is in debt to at the beginning of the game.

With the nation under quarantine and social distancing becoming the new normal, video games are now a major part of many Americans’ lives, and Animal Crossing, the best-selling game in the US for March according to The NPD Group, has become one of the most popular games in the country.

The World Health Organization even encouraged people to play video games to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in a tweet from Raymond Chambers, WHO’s ambassador for global strategy. But some feel there are more benefits to video games during quarantine than just aiding physical distancing.

Jasmine Miletic, a sophomore on UW-Whitewater’s esports team, said that the new Animal Crossing game offers her a sense of normalcy and a way to escape during quarantine.

“You have a bunch of goals to do, and with us all being trapped inside the house, having the game there kinda gives you a sense of reality,” Miletic said. “It takes you away.”

Miletic has also made new personal connections through Animal Crossing’s online community.

“I’m in a couple Facebook pages where you can talk to people who also play the game, and then they can come visit your island and you can sell them stuff and trade items with them,” Miletic said. “I’ve actually met a lot of people through that.”

According to Matthew Berland, an associate professor at UW-Madison and the director of the UW Game Design program, video games allow friends to socialize again while still remaining under quarantine.

“I think that a lot of people, including myself, really miss chatting with people,” Berland said.

One popular board game site, Board Game Arena, even crashed due to the sudden influx of people, according to Berland.

“There was just so many people that wanted to play board games with their friends,” Berland said. “I think video games are the same way. I think that a lot of the servers are experiencing high loads because it’s a virus-safe way to have social interactions.”

He argued that games provide a context for the more subtle social interactions of life that many are missing because of social distancing.

 “I think a lot of people underestimate the value of really minor-key, softly-spoken notes,” Berland said. “Sometimes you just need to hear that [your friends] had rice and beans for lunch.”

It’s no secret that the pandemic and quarantine have played a part in the success of Animal Crossing, but aspects of the game itself have drawn in many players, Miletic and Berland included.

In Animal Crossing, the player arrives at an island that they can then explore, crafting items and developing their town for villagers, anthropomorphic animal characters with distinct personalities that live on the island and are “super cute,” according to Miletic.

“It’s delightful, it feels safe, it feels happy, it feels creative, it feels social.” Berland said. “My personal feeling is, when I sit down to play, say with my daughter or alone … my feeling is delight.”

Miletic made one point very clear.

“It’s just a really cute game,” she said.

With so much additional free time though, people may be feeling pressured to be extra productive rather than spend time playing video games. On Twitter, one tweet by singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash about being productive during quarantine was retweeted more than 52 thousand times.

“Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear,” Cash wrote.

But more and more people are turning against this type of thinking. Chris Ferguson, an associate professor at Stetson University, said that the increase in gaming likely has few negative impacts.

“Accumulating evidence suggests that playing video games isn’t really associated with negative outcomes,” Ferguson said. According to Ferguson, as long as people finish their work and exercise, “There are honestly no maximum limits on video game time, particularly as right now there might not be much else to do.”

And according to Berland, the benefits of social interaction and personal connections are important as well.

“Like any media, like books like movies, tv, like anything, you can do it positively or you can do it negatively,” Berland said. “But there’s lots of great ways to play games with your friends … and play creatively with your family, and to keep in touch.”

This is all good news for Miletic, who has been spending a lot of time in her virtual island village.

“Right now I’m already at, I believe, 185 hours,” Miletic said. “And the game just came out not even a full month ago.”

Berland also reflected on his time spent playing games.

“I have two kids and a wife, and keeping everyone happy is job number one for my wife and I,” Berland said. “But in lieu of going anywhere, there is time to play games, which is nice.”

Crash Course for Famous People

Reading the Room 101: A Crash Course for Famous People

By Emily Knepple

Global pandemic? What better way to appeal to the masses than with an Instagram live, or a majorly tone-deaf video of people singing “Imagine” whose net worth could probably pay for you and I’s (out-of-state) tuition, combined

Look, I’m the first one to admit that I gladly follow a long-list of A-list, B-list and even C-list celebs and genuinely get lost in their profiles. I had posters of singers taped up on the walls of my childhood bedroom and I spent actual money to see them. I get the appeal, celebrities are fun, they offer fantasy, a small glimpse into what life could actually be if you woke up with enough talent to get you noticed or knew someone at the top. 

                                                     @Kofromatatf (Twitter)

   Going on Instagram these days seems like an instant invitation to over 20+ celeb lives. 

I get it, okay? I’m not “anti-celeb” for the most part. But, when it comes to something that impacts everyone, gets in the way of our and their daily lives, I wonder just how talented they are at empathy. 

If it’s not Ellen DeGeneres coming at us live from one of her larger-than-life rooms telling us to keep the faith, it’s Kylie Jenner posting about how this is driving her crazy and she misses simpler times when she could go on a $3 million vacation with her sisters. 

With over 17 million Americans filing for unemployment over the past four weeks, I’m not sure if stars are facing similar challenges. Their roles on the big screen will be there when this is over. For us, the future of our jobs in places like retail, the food industry and more remain up in the air. 

Famous people have failed to learn how to read the room. The first time we really saw someone openly ignoring the plight this pandemic brings on so many was the infamous yacht photo. That’s right, someone actually wished everyone well from their $5 million yacht, where they were quarantined. 

               Billionaire David Geffen sent the world good wishes off his yacht early in the COVID-19 chaos. 

Jennifer Lopez really took the time to show us how her family is coping and yes, it did include one of her sons on a hoverboard, in her expansive backyard. Jeremy Renner, best known for his role of Hawk-Eye in The Avengers, really thought now was the best time to kick-start his music career with a single titled “Medecine.” YEP, he really had people telling him that that was a good idea, he really got the go-ahead. 

I’m sorry but I  know I’m not alone in the frustration right now. As much as I love seeing people like Chrissy Teigen on my timeline, I don’t necessarily know if we’re on an even playing field. 

So, I guess that leaves us with nothing else to do but teach. I’ve compiled a list of  the five biggest to-dos for celebrities that missed the ball on understanding the difference between us and them. 

  1. Don’t EQUATE: There’s no hiding that we lead different lives, that your backyard could easily be the size of my house. Instead of trying to be one of us, acknowledge that you aren’t and recognize your privilege. Madonna called the virus the “great equalizer” from a bathtub of rose petals while I’m trying to schedule my showers with my family so we can all use some hot water. 
  2. Go easy on the Lives: Look, I see the appeal of musicians streaming shows and honestly think that’s a great way to keep people engaged. However, if your live is just you and another celebrity talking back and forth about how you’re coping, or just yourself documenting daily life, maybe recognize they’re a bit overdone and if you need someone to talk to, call your friends like the rest of us. 
  3. Pleas for Money: Look, charity is great and it does a lot of good things for those that need it. However, when I see celebs post links to places we should donate, my gut instinct is to say: Well, have you? Not that it’s my business and it’s likely they have, but just forcing charity’s down the links of your followers can be a bit much. 
  4. You’re not a Scientist: Look, we’re all on the same boat here when it comes to how much we know. Leave the science part to scientists. Stop offering your suggestions on when this could be over. And for the love of God, please avoid doing anything close to what Vanessa Hudgens did a few weeks ago and go on some sort of rant about the ridiculousness of serious measures. 
  5. READ THE ROOM: Last and most importantly, please read the room. I know social media might be a way to cope, or your means of maintaining a following both on and off the screen. But, recognize that people’s timelines are overflowing with bad news. Trying to add to that with a complaint about how your significant other is starting to drive you crazy or how you don’t know what day it is and your losing mind can often reek of a lack of empathy. Now might not be the best time to launch a new press campaign, just a thought. 

Not to say this applies to all famous people. I’ve seen some good things come out of this. Like John Krasinski’s Good News weekly show that brings people together and steers away from the general narrative. Artists that have gone forward with their album releases also provide solace for me. New music is fun and if you’re able to share it without trying to evoke copious amounts of sympathy, gold star. 

I think there’s a time and a place for everything. Obviously, celebrities are deeply ingrained into our culture. And honestly, it’s such an ambiguous term that it no longer applies to just movie stars and singers. They’re people, too. I think this virus can definitely impact them, whether it’s consequence can be as serious as it is for us common folk, which I think is what puts them at fault. When they start to act as if the implications are the same is where I begin to feel frustrated. 

But, feelings are feelings and as people, we try to validate them, even when they belong to  people who have salaries with a numbers of digits I will never see in my life. So, at the end of the day, all we can ask of our highest-profile friends is to just please, read the room.

Bridging the Gap

6 Ways Telehealth Has Been Bridging the Gap Between UW-Madison Students and UHS

By Jennifer Hwang

1. UHS has been providing telehealth services since March 16.

According to Interim Director of Mental Health Services at UHS, Andrea Lawson, the school clinic reached out to every student who had an in-person appointment scheduled to better understand what their current needs were in the context of COVID-19. “For some students, their need for support was less, and for others it was more or at least different,” Lawson said. “We are offering continuity of care to all students already connected to us, regardless of their location.” UHS has been able to serve students with phone or video-based services, with state licensing laws for mental health services in mind. When UHS cannot be the one to help students due to the law, they can connect students to local resources.

2. 70-80% of students are using telehealth services, with a significant uptick in students utilizing SilverCloud.

UHS has been at its typical capacity for counseling, although they are seeing a large increase in the number of students who are signing up for and actively using SilverCloud, Lawson said. The platform is an online cognitive behavior-based self-help tool that students and faculty can use. “Since March 16, 332 new students have started using the platform, in comparison to 125 students who used SilverCloud during the same time period last year,” Lawson said.

3. Students struggling with serious medical and mental health issues are getting access to medication in the midst of the pandemic.

Based on symptoms, UHS providers can diagnose and treat severe medical concerns by sending prescriptions electronically to a student’s local pharmacy.

4. UHS providers have been conducting telehealth sessions from home. 

“To limit their need to travel and interact with others in accordance with the ‘Safer at Home’ order, almost all UHS staff are providing services from their homes,” Lawson said. “Each provider went through training to be able to understand the technology [they] are using, along with best practices for providing teletherapy.” At their homes, UHS providers have been virtually seeing students in confidential, private spaces.

5. UHS appreciates any feedback from students who have been using telehealth to improve their services.

The school clinic has been working on launching student satisfaction surveys. Currently, students can provide feedback through the ‘Tell Us How We’re Doing’ form online. Also, UHS has come up with some new online resources to help students, found here.

6. Students experiencing mental health emergencies can rely on UHS.

“We’ve developed protocols particularly for this time, including confirming the location of the student at the time of the appointment, developing an emergency support plan, and identifying local crisis resources for students to reach out to if needed,” Lawson said. The UHS crisis line is available 24/7 at 608-265-5600 Option 9, and on call services can be reached at 608-265-5600 Option 2.