Following some five months and 3,500 volunteer hours of construction, The River Food Pantry opened for service in March 2006. Operated out of a warehouse on Darwin Road, this faith-based pantry provides hot meals, nonperishable foods and clothing for families from around Dane County, with a particular focus on residents in low-income neighborhoods on the north side of Madison. Every Friday evening, The River serves about 200 hot meals and provides pantry assistance to 100-150 families, all on an estimated annual budget of $75,000.
Back in the spring, Madison filmmaker Tona Williams -- the operator of BigBite Productions and the principal cinematographer for Blame Society Productions -- was contacted by The River after she introduced their work in a documentary titled Second Harvest: Bringing Food to People. A 10-minute version of the documentary detailing the work of the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin is available for viewing online. "You'll get to visit the Kids' Cafe, go on a delivery to a mobile food pantry, check out the warehouses, hear from lots of volunteers and employees, and find out what Cerealpalooza is all about," she explains in the preview for the film.
"The River was a small part of the first documentary, and they contacted me to see if I could do another one that helps show what their organization does," Williams notes. Thus was born this film, which was made public by the pantry last month. "I love doing projects like this," she says. "There's so much food and community resources that would be wasted without groups like this. I found it really fascinating."
This seven-and-a-half-minute documentary follows.
"I learned a lot about food banks and food pantries while making the documentary; it was really special visiting the spaces and hanging out and talking to the people there, getting an intimate feel for what they do," says Williams. "There is a real feeling of a community coming together here, where in many cases families coming to get food are helping out too. They're all pitching in to help build a good community."